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NEWS UPDATES Asean Affairs        29  June 2011

Vietnamese agricultural sector hit hard by inflation

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Former Deputy Prime Minister Vu Khoan said yesterday the people hardest hit by inflation were the poor, most of them farmers.

Khoan suggested the Vietnamese government focus on restructuring the agricultural sector to mitigate the severe impacts of rising costs on the most vulnerable.

He was speaking at a workshop on Macro-economic Instability and Welfare Impact: International Experience and Lessons for Viet Nam held by the World Bank and the Government Office.

"Crisis brings us a lesson that as the number of people living in rural areas still makes up a large part in the country's population, we cannot neglect agricultural production while pursuing industrialisation progress," he said.

"Preventing growth slowdown, curbing inflationary pressure and protecting the poor are among top priorities of governments, especially in developing countries," World Bank Country Director Victoria Kwakwa said.

She said that since the second half of 2010, Viet Nam had experienced high inflation, tensions in foreign-exchange markets, and decreasing reserves.

Among the problems, the high rises in prices for food, fuel and electricity were factors having an adverse impact on the poor.

According to William Martin, agricultural research manager at the World Bank, the poorest people spent often 75 percent of their incomes on food, making them vulnerable to high food prices. And three quarters of poor people worldwide live in rural areas and earned most of their income from farming.

Khoan said that "now, despite increases in food demand and exports which helped Vietnamese farmers, price hikes of input materials such as fertiliser and cattle food were lessening their real incomes".

He said that developing the agricultural sector would help ensure social welfare and food security.

However, the quality and efficiency of agricultural development were still low, therefore, the Government must take drastic measures to restructure the sector.

Currently, farmers made great contributions to the economy, but they enjoyed little of its benefits, therefore it was time to reverse things to encourage them, Khoan said.

Moreover, the government must raise the level of support to farmers and provide the support directly to the production phase rather than intermediate phases, Khoan said.


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