Agriculture the brightest sector in Mekong Delta

A shrimp farmer uses a plastic basket to move shrimp from one holding pen to another in a pond in the My Xuyen district in southern Vietnam. The Mekong Delta, long renowned as the "rice bowl of Vietnam", is now also home to a multi-billion-dollar shrimp industry and burgeoning numbers of farmers are building fortunes from the small crustaceans. - AFP file pic

CAN THO: The agricultural sector has grown but was still not strong enough to revive the region’s economy, according to the second annual Mekong Delta Economic Report 2022, released in Can Tho yesterday.

The launch of the report was held by the Vietnam Chamber of Commerce and Industry (VCCI) in Can Tho and the Fulbright School of Public Policy and Management (FSPPM) with the participation of experts in the fields of economics, policymaking, agriculture, environment, energy, transport and logistics.

It aims to provide information on the economic situation of the Mekong Delta and important issues facing the region.

This is the second year the report has been published, and it remains the only report on an economic region across the country.

The theme “Transformation of Development Models and Integrated Planning” focuses on the transformation of the agricultural model and assessing the impact of the Mekong Delta Integrated Plan for the 2021-2030 period.

VCCI chairman Pham Tan Cong said: “The Mekong Delta is known for its rich land and abundant labour resources.

“The main economic pillar comes from the agricultural industry but it is facing great challenges due to climate change, economic decline, labour shortages and raw material sources that do not meet export standards.”

Cong said while the key processing industry relied heavily on raw materials, the region must find an answer for sustainable development if it continues to rely on natural conditions.

“The business community needs to grasp and approach systematic and synchronous development orientations and strategies,” Cong said.

The report gave an overview of the current status of the global economy post-Covid-19, the local macroeconomic situation and the economic impacts on the Mekong Delta.

Vu Thanh Tu Anh, FSPPM’s director, co-editor and head of the research team, said two years of the pandemic had a heavy impact on local economic growth but the biggest bright spot of the Mekong Delta was the agriculture sector.

Anh said the agricultural sector of the Mekong Delta still grew 3.4%, much higher than the national average in 2021, adding the region’s agricultural and aquatic exports played a key role in maintaining Vietnam’s trade surplus.

Anh noted that the agricultural competitiveness of the Mekong Delta did not only come from favourable natural conditions for agricultural production, but also from technical improvements to increase productivity and the process of agricultural production and economic restructuring.

Anh said unlike other regions, the average agricultural labour productivity growth rate in the Mekong Delta was very high, up to 9.03% per year, which is more than two times higher than that of the industrial (4.39%) and services sector (3.82%), showing great potential for structural transformation and productivity growth.

Anh said though agricultural development was an important prerequisite for industrial and service development, in the long term, economic growth and prosperity did not come from agriculture but from structural transformation in industry and services.

Therefore, clearly identifying and gradually removing bottlenecks hindering the industrial and service development of the Mekong Delta would be necessary for development.

The report also showed the delta was facing a serious lack of investment and labour under the shift from agriculture to industry, adding the matter was created from the economic structural spiral. — Viet Nam News/ANN

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