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Agriculture ensures social security

   5/29/2008

VietNamNet Bridge - Vietnamese scientists are worried that the country would be facing a food crisis had the Government failed to keep land for rice cultivation. The world has a food shortage and rice prices have shot up. One reason for this is that Asian countries have lost too much farmland over the last two decades. Alarming figures According to a plan designed by the Ministry of Natural Resources and Environment (MoNRE), farmland will increase in size from 8,973,783 ha in 2000 to 9,363,063 ha in 2010. Findings of a survey made by the Ministry of Agricultural and Rural Development (MARD) warned that the population will increase around 1.3 percent while areas under cultivation will reduce by 1 percent annually. Average farmland per capita has fallen from 0.113 ha in 2000 to only 0.108 ha in 2010. Meanwhile, the world average rate is 0.23 ha. According to many scientists from the Vietnam Land Association, these figures are alarming. Although Vietnam has accelerated its industrialisation and urbanisation programme over the last 20 years, about 75 percent of its population still lives on farming. Bac Ninh province, east of Hanoi, is the smallest in the country. But as a result of opening up to foreign and domestic investment in industry very early, its farmland has been reduced from 49,000 ha in 2000 to 42,000 ha in 2008 to give way to industrial parks (IPs). According to statistics, one in every five households has lost farmland for IPs. Some villages even lost up to 90 – 95 percent of their farmland. Hung Yen province, southeast of Hanoi, has suffered the same fate. There is a plan afoot to build 20 IPs, which will require about 6,155 ha in 2015 and 9,305 ha in 2020. In addition to industrial parks along Highways 5 and 39, the province will also build a golf course and an entertainment area. About 180 ha of rice field in Long Hung and Nghia Tru communes in Van Giang district have been approved for an 18-hole gold-course. The loss of farmland, particularly for rice production can be attributed to local authorities’ poor management of land policy. The situation is worsening as they cannot tackle their own problems. Golf-course cuts rice field to pieces Rice prices have increased by 68 percent since early this year and 33 countries are facing social instability because of soaring food and energy prices. The food crisis is attributable to many factors such as the high cost of energy and fertilizer, increasing consumption, the development of bio-fuel, speculation and adverse weather. However, as economists put it, what overrides other factors is the lack of concern over long-term agricultural production on the part of many governments. Chairman of the International Fund for Agriculture Development, Lennart Bage, said that in the last 10 to 15 years, many countries have not paid due attention to investment in agriculture. International development assistance to the sector has also dropped from 20 percent in the early 1980s to less than 3 percent at present. That is why farmland has disappeared quickly in many Asian countries during their urbanization and industrialisation process. However, golf courses or resorts are not the only threat to farmland. In the Philippines, 50 percent of farmland has been urbanised over the last two decades. In the early 1970s, the Philippines was a rice exporter but it has recently become the world’s biggest rice importer, with its annual purchase of about 2 million tonnes. Many international officials are worried that the current rice shortage could lead to social unrest in the country. The food crisis has become a matter of concern for many countries and many governments have issued policies to strictly control agricultural land. For food security On April 18, the Vietnamese Prime Minister issued Decision No. 391/QD-TTg on the review and inspection of the management and use of land in the five years between 2006 and 2010 in the whole country, with a focus on farmland in general and rice fields in particular. According to the Decision, in localities which have different categories of land, specialised wet rice paddies will not be used for non-agricultural production. In case of necessity, developers must propose a solution to save land and ensure the safety of agricultural production during the implementation of their projects. Meanwhile, provincial and city People’s Committees are required to submit their development projects to the Prime Minister for approval. MARD is preparing a food security strategy which is expected to be completed in August 2008. According to MARD, from 3.8 to 4 million ha of land will be kept for rice production. However, it is no easy task because there are no detailed plans afoot to serve as guidelines for the localities to make use of agricultural land. That is why rice fields continue to shrink due to the short-sighted views of local officials.

VNA
5/29/2008

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