Businesses in central Da Nang city have gradually resumed operations now that COVID-19 has been brought under control. Efforts to improve working conditions and workplace hygiene and safety are considered key in ensuring employee retention during such difficult times.

This enterprise specializes in manufacturing footwear for export to Europe. Its workers are constantly exposed to toxic glue and chemicals, but in recent years the company has introduced a host of solutions to improve workplace hygiene and safety.

Hit hard by the COVID-19 pandemic, many enterprises were forced to suspend operations and reduce employee numbers. Disease prevention and control, together with ensuring working conditions, are what companies are now focusing on to encourage workers to stay.

Ensuring workplace safety and the physical and mental health of employees plays a significant role in businesses resuming operations following the COVID-19 pandemic./

HCM City’s trading centres assess COVID-19 risks

Supermarkets, shopping centres and traditional and wholesale markets in Ho Chi Minh City have assessed their COVID-19 infection risks through a set of evaluation indicators and have set safety measures to meet the city’s requirements.

The city’s Steering Committee for COVID-19 Prevention and Control launched the assessment tool as part of a programme to help local businesses reopen.

The city’s Department of Industry and Trade provided assessment guidance to people's committees in all 24 districts and to management boards at wholesale markets, traditional markets, supermarkets and trading centres.

The department also worked with the Department of Information and Communications to inform residents about shopping places that meet the requirements for reopening.

So far, three wholesale markets, 216 supermarkets and 40 trading centres have sent their self-assessment reports to the department.

The People's Committees in 24 districts have reported that 196 out of 197 traditional markets have met the safety requirements. Dinh Market in Hoc Mon district is taking measures to overcome its shortcomings.

From April 28 to May 7, the Department of Industry and Trade in collaboration with the People's Committees in 24 districts checked 17 places to ensure they were applying safety measures. Most of the places met 80 percent of the requirements for operation.

More than 85 percent of enterprises in the city have been affected by the pandemic, including 87 percent of businesses in the retail sector, according to the city’s Statistics Office.

In the first five months of the year, total retail sales of consumer goods and services have been estimated at 506 trillion VND (21.7 billion USD), a decrease of 4.9 percent compared to the same period last year.

Of the figure, retail sales of goods in the first five months has been estimated at 331 trillion VND (13.4 billion USD), a year-on-year increase of 8.4 percent, accounting for 65 percent of total retail sales of consumer goods and services.

Retail sales of goods are recovering, but are still slow because purchasing power and rental demand have been affected.

Purchasing power increased by 10-15 percent after the social distancing order was relaxed, with a higher increase at retail channels such as supermarkets, hypermarkets and convenience stores.

In the second quarter, retail and distribution systems have launched promotion campaigns to promote purchases through mobile phones, websites and apps, and have offered attractive delivery policies.

The shift from traditional offline channels to online sales has helped businesses improve revenue.

Indonesia allows nine economic sectors to resume activities

The Indonesian government has allowed nine sectors to resume their activities, according to head of the COVID-19 Task Force Doni Monardo.

The sectors are mining, oil and gas, industry, construction, plantation, agriculture and husbandry, fisheries, logistics and cargo transportation.

This plan is based on data-driven public health indicators, he said, adding that nine sectors face low risk caused by the COVID-19 pandemic but are able to create broad work opportunities and significant economic effects.

Moreover, apart from health assessments, the reopening of the nine sectors was heavily based on its effects on the nation’s workforce, sectoral gross regional domestic product, and sector linkage index.

Monardo said their operations will be under close monitoring by state-institutions, central task force, and public elements alike. Business activities of these nine sectors will possibly face another temporary closure if they are found with new COVID-19 cases./.

E-commerce floor for lychee launched

An e-commerce trading floor for Vietnamese lychee products will be launched this month.

The e-commerce floor is being implemented by the northern province of Bac Giang's Luc Ngan district.

It aims to diversify the channels of marketing and trade of lychee products, as the COVID-19 pandemic makes it difficult for foreign traders to come directly in Luc Ngan to buy the fruit.

In order for the floor to operate smoothly, businesses have been given solutions such as cold storage for canned agricultural products, transportation, and potential markets including China, the European Union (EU) and Japan.

They are also equipped with general knowledge about the trading floor and management skills, as well as how to increase sales, profits, and customer confidence in the Luc Ngan lychee brand.

The total output of lychee in Bac Giang province was estimated at 16,725 tonnes with the average selling price of 25,000 VND per kilogramme by the afternoon of June 1.

Cambodia’s budget revenue reaches 2 billion USD in four months

Cambodia collected 8,42 billion riel (about 2 billion USD) in national revenue in the first four months of 2020, up 10 percent against the same period last year.

Local media on June 5 quoted the Cambodian Ministry of Economy and Finance, saying that of the aforementioned budget revenue, tax revenue reached about 7.1 billion riel (about 1.7 billion USD).

The country spent 7,2 billion riel (about 1.7 billion USD) in the period, a year-on-year increase of 31 percent, the ministry said.

Earlier, in March, to alleviate the shock caused by the COVID-19 pandemic to the national economy, the Cambodian government announced a reserve budget worth 2 billion USD to help the country's economic pillars, as well as support those working in the textiles and tourism sectors, who lost their jobs.

However, the International Monetary Fund (IMF) has forecasted that Cambodia's gross domestic product (GDP) will experience negative growth of 1.7 percent in 2020.

Sacombank sets to achieve 110.6 million USD in pre-tax profit in 2020

Shareholders of Saigon Thuong Tin Commercial Joint Stock Bank (Sacombank) approved the bank’s financial statements for last year, a number of targets for this year, profit distribution plans and other important proposals at its annual general meeting held online on June 5.

Pham Van Phong, the bank’s permanent vice chairman, said Sacombank had achieved positive performances in most areas of operation in 2019.

Its profit before tax increased by 43.2 percent to 3.2 trillion VND (137.5 million USD), 21.4 percent higher than the target.

Its return on assets (ROA) and return on equity (ROE) were 0.57 percent and 9.56 percent, up 0.11 percentage points and 0.28 percentage points year-on-year.

Earning per share was 1,119 VND, an increase of 338 VND from 2018.

Its total assets at the end of 2019 were worth over 453.58 trillion VND (19.4 billion USD), an increase of 11.7 percent during the course of the year.

It had total deposits of over 414 trillion VND and loans outstanding of over 296.4 trillion VND, year-on-year increases of 11.9 percent and 15.3 percent.

Its non-performing loans ratio declined by 0.22 percentage points to 1.9 percent, meeting the target of below 2 percent.

For 2020 the bank targets increases of 10 percent in total assets and deposits and 11 percent in outstanding loans.

It targets profit before tax of 2.57 trillion VND (110.6 million USD) and non-performing loans of under 3 percent.

Explaining why the bank set a lower profit target for this year, Nguyen Duc Thach Diem, its CEO, said the COVID-19 pandemic had affected the global economy, including Vietnam’s.

“Sacombank has received petitions from customers to restructure and reduce interest rates on total loans of nearly 25 trillion VND. This is a large number, and if (we) lower interest rates by 1-2 percentage points, the bank’s profits will reduce.”

In case the epidemic is well controlled, the bank would make every effort to achieve profits equal to that of 2019 of over 3.2 trillion VND, she said.

Despite difficulties, the bank achieved impressive growth in the first five months of the year, with its profit before tax topping 1.3 trillion VND, higher than in the same period last year and equalling 50 percent of the year’s target, and a bad debts ratio at 2 percent.

Duong Cong Minh, the chairman, said 2019 was the third year of restructuring and the bank recorded many important achievements and has gradually regained its position in the market.

"The roadmap for the restructuring project is over 10 years, but with such good results, we believe that by 2023 Sacombank will return to the position of one of the leading banks in Vietnam."

Speaking about dividends, he said the bank’s board of directors had sought the State Bank of Vietnam’s approval for paying dividends, but had yet to receive reply.

“The bank has accumulated profits of more than 4 trillion VND. Banking is a conditional business sector, and so the bank can only pay dividends to shareholders if it gets approval from the SBV. On behalf of shareholders we will continue to petition the SBV on this issue.”

Sacombank has 570 transaction points in Vietnam, Laos and Cambodia.

SMEs assisted to tap into opportunities from EVFTA

Vietnam’s small- and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) received updates on the latest information relating to the EU-Vietnam Free Trade Agreement (EVFTA) at an online conference held by the Ministry of Industry and Trade (MoIT) and the Vietnam Association of Small and Medium Enterprises (VINASME) on June 5.

In his opening remarks, Minister of Industry and Trade Tran Tuan Anh emphasised that the conference aims to support SMEs seeking ways to fully tap into the opportunities brought about by the agreement and to minimize its challenges.

Participants focused discussions on strategic benefits and issues enterprises must take heed of to effectively implement the agreement, on potential products for export, and on promoting all exports to the EU.

The role played by local authorities in supporting SMEs by building trade promotion strategies to take advantage of opportunities from the agreement was also on the agenda.

The EVFTA was approved by the European Council on March 30 and is scheduled to be passed by the National Assembly of Vietnam on June 8.

Vietnam is the only developing country and the second in the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) to sign an FTA with the EU - the world’s leading economic community with GDP of 18,300 billion USD.

The agreement is hoped to drive Vietnam’s exports and help diversify its export markets.

According to research from the Ministry of Planning and Investment, it will help Vietnam increase its GDP by 2.18-3.25 percent in the first five years, 4.57-5.30 percent in the next five years and 7.07-7.72 percent in the following five years while its exports to the EU are expected to grow by 42.7 percent by 2025 and 44.37 by 2030.

Vietnamese businesses will soon have the opportunity to access new supply chains to replace traditional supply chains disrupted or stalled by COVID-19.
It is a good opportunity for Vietnam to step in and fill the gap in regional and global supply chains affected by the pandemic./.

Tax revenue in five months hits almost 21.73 billion USD

The tax sector’s state budget revenue was estimated at nearly 500 trillion VND (21.73 billion USD) in the first five months of this year, equal to 97.6 percent of the figure of the same period last year.

Data published on June 4 by the General Department of Taxation showed that the tax sector’s estimated State budget revenue last month was 58 trillion VND, equal to only 63.1 percent of the same month last year.

Of which, revenue from crude oil gained only 25.1 percent of the same period last year. Domestic revenue is estimated at 65.8 percent of the same period last year.

The COVID-19 pandemic has had a significant impact on tax collection. The General Department of Taxation has supported businesses to overcome difficulties and have solutions to ensure the revenue target.

The General Department of Taxation said the reason was the Government's nationwide social distancing decision, requiring non-essential businesses to close and others to limit activities, which has affected businesses and State budget revenue in April and May.

In addition, the implementation of the Government’s Decree 41/NĐ-CP on the extension of deadlines for tax and land use fee payments to support businesses suffering from the COVID-19 pandemic also caused a sharp decline in budget revenues.

The decrease in five-month revenue is also partly attributed to the implementation of Decree 100/2019/NĐ-CP with severe sanctions for drivers who consumed alcohol.

This has led to a sharp decrease in alcohol consumption in many localities.

Measures sought to help SMEs optimise EVFTA

Vietnamese enterprises, especially small- and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs), should quickly improve product quality and value to consolidate their competitiveness in the European Union market, an online conference on June 5 heard.

The conference was jointly held by the Ministry of Industry and Trade (MoIT) and the Vietnam Association of Small and Medium-Sized Enterprises (VINASME) in a bid to help SMEs optimise the opportunities generated by the EU-Vietnam Free Trade Agreement (EVFTA).

Tran Thanh Hai, Deputy Director of the MoIT’s Import-Export Department, suggested enterprises pay greater attention to food hygiene, corporate social responsibility, and transparency in labour information and product origin.

He also urged them to study the contents of the EVFTA, in particular commitments regarding tariffs and product origin.

SMEs should view the agreement as the first stage in their business activities and competitive pressure as a source of momentum to move forward, Hai emphasised.

Cooperating with market partners would help attract more investment to Vietnam, thus enabling SMEs to join regional and global supply chains more intensively, he added.

The MoIT has rolled out various synchronous solutions in anticipation of the agreement, he said, including a draft action plan that defines the targets and tasks of relevant ministries and agencies in implementation efforts, which has been submitted to the Government for approval.

Signed on June 30, 2019, the EVFTA is now awaiting approval from the Vietnamese National Assembly.

The EU is one of Vietnam’s three largest importers, along with the US and China. Vietnam’s exports to the market last year reached 41.54 billion USD, or 15.7 percent of the country’s total export value.

Vietnam accounts for just 2 percent of the EU market share, however, meaning there is ample room for growth./.

HCM City’s industrial production rebounds in May

The Index of Industrial Production (IIP) for HCM City in May rose 7.9 percent against April but was down 15.5 percent year-on-year, according to the city’s Department of Industry and Trade.

The department said this reveals an improvement in local industrial production compared to April, but as COVID-19 has yet to be contained in many countries that are major trade partners of Vietnam, the IIP contracted against May last year.

The five-month IIP, meanwhile, was down 7.2 percent year-on-year.

The consumption indicator in processing and manufacturing fell 5 percent from a year earlier. Metal products, wooden and bamboo items (except furniture), machinery, and electrical devices posted sharp year-on-year declines in sales.

Between January and May, the inventory index surged 84.4 percent in electrical device production, 67.2 percent in chemical and related product manufacturing, 43.3 percent in metal production, and 40.5 percent in motorised vehicle manufacturing.

Meanwhile, local businesses earned more than 3.38 billion USD from exports in May, up 10 percent month-on-month. Overseas shipments increased 6.3 percent year-on-year to more than 16.96 billion USD during the first five months of the year.

Deputy Director of the department Nguyen Phuong Dong said China remained the city’s largest export market, with 3.97 billion USD worth of goods shipped there during the five-month period, an increase of 38.5 percent year-on-year and accounting for 25.7 percent of the city’s total exports, followed by the US and Japan.

Exports to the EU, whose free trade agreement with Vietnam is to take effect shortly, was approximately 1.85 billion USD, down 11.6 percent from a year earlier and equal to 11.9 percent of the city’s total./

Over 50 businesses, cooperatives join sales of Bac Giang lychee

More than 50 businesses, cooperatives and markets in and out the northern province of Bac Giang – the country’s largest lychee producer - have registered to engage in sales of “thieu” lychee – a local fruit specialty.

To facilitate the consumption of this fruit, the provincial Department of Industry and Trade had worked with the Trade Promotion Department, Domestic Markets Department, Asia-Africa Market Department, and European-American Market Department of the Ministry of Industry and Trade, as well as the Department of Farm Produce Processing and Market Development, Plant Protection Department, and Cultivation Department under the Ministry of Agriculture and Rural Development.

Bac Giang currently has more than 28,100ha of lychee, with output likely to increase by 10,000 tonnes to 160,000 tonnes this year.

It has developed a host of plans and scenarios for lychee trade promotions this year given the COVID-19 outbreak, which is still ravaging many countries around the world. It has set its sights on several main markets, such as Japan, the US, Australia, the EU, and China.

Japan has approved a total of 19 Production Unit Codes (PUCs) for 103ha of lychee grown by 107 local households in Bac Giang. The area includes 98ha of the main crop in Luc Ngan and 5ha of the early-ripened crop in Tan Yen, which is forecast to produce over 600 tonnes.

The province has also received 18 PUCs for 218ha of lychee in Luc Ngan’s six communes - Giap Son, Tan Moc, Tan Son, Hong Giang, Kien Lao, and Tan Quang - for export to the US, Australia, and the EU./.

Rice export prices hit two-year high

The first four months of the year has seen the average export price of rice reach US$470.2 per tonne, representing an increase of 10% over the same period from last year and the highest level over the course of the past two years.

According to the Agro Processing and Market Development Authority, May alone saw rice exports reach 789,000 tonnes with a value of approximately US$415 million, raising the total volume to nearly 2.9 million tonnes with an export value worth US$1.41 billion. This marks a 5.1% increase in terms of volume and a 18.9% rise in value, in comparison with the same period from last year. 

During the course of opening four months of the year, the Philippines has led the way in terms of being the country’s largest rice export market, holding a market share of 40.5%, with its overall volume reaching over 902,000 tonnes, equivalent to US$401.3 million.

Most notably, other export markets that have enjoyed strong growth include China and Indonesia, both of which have seen a 2.7-fold increase, Taiwan (China) which has increased by 67.9%, and Ghana, up 39.3%.

Last year’s figures saw the price of rice in the nation range from US$376 to US$420 per tonne while the 2018 figure was between US$380 to US$502 per tonne.

With regard to the current global market, the export price of Indian rice has hit a record high during this year due to growing demand from African and Asian nations. Moreover, the price of Thai rice has suffered a fall over the course of the previous month due to increasing supply and fierce competition from cheaper suppliers such as India and Vietnam.

The Agro Processing and Market Development Authority forecasts that global demand for rice will increase, with the Philippines seeking to import an additional 300,000 tonnes of rice in an effort to strengthen Government reserves and to prepare for the low-supply season that may occur during the third quarter.

The latest forecast issued by the US Department of Agriculture indicates that the world's rice production for the year is estimated to be at 493.8 million tonnes, down by 0.5% from last year’s figures. Furthermore, this year’s global rice consumption is expected to reach 490.2 million tonnes, an increase of 0.9% from last year.

Industrial production of southern economic hub enjoys recovery in May

The Index of Industrial Production (IIP) of Ho Chi Minh City was boosted by a 7.9% surge in May against April, despite representing an annual decline of 15.5%, therefore signaling that local industrial production is beginning to pick up, according to the city’s Department of Industry and Trade.

Indeed, the southern metropolis’ Department of Industry and Trade stated that due to the novel coronavirus (COVID-19) yet to be brought under control in many locations that are the country’s major trading partners, the IIP endured a fall in comparison with the figures recorded in May last year. 

The consumption indicator in terms of processing and manufacturing suffered a drop of 5% from the previous year, whilst metal products, wooden and bamboo items, with the exception of furniture, machinery, and electrical devices endured an on-year decline in sales.

Moreover, between January and May, the inventory index recorded a sharp rise of 84.4% in electrical device production, whilst chemical and related product manufacturing rose by 67.2%, metal production went up by 43.3%, and motorised vehicle manufacturing increased by 40.5%.

Simultaneously, local businesses made over US$3.38 billion from exports during May, an increase of 10% from the previous month. Meanwhile, overseas shipments enjoyed an annual price hike of 6.3% on-year to upwards of US$16.96 billion during the opening five months of the year.

Nguyen Phuong Dong, Deputy Director of Ho Chi Minh City’s Department of Industry and Trade, said China has retained its position as the city’s largest export market, with US$3.97 billion  worth of goods shipped there during the reviewed period. This figure represents a rise of 38.5% on-year and accounts for 25.7% of the city’s total exports, followed by the United States and Japan.

Gov’t rolls out plan to implement FAO agreement on deterring IUU fishing

Prime Minister Nguyen Xuan Phuc has approved a plan to implement the Agreement on Port State Measures to Prevent, Deter and Eliminate Illegal, Unreported and Unregulated (IUU) Fishing of the Food and Agriculture Organization.

Under the five-year plan, the Government targets to effectively control and deter IUU fishing activities of fishing boats and vessels seeking to enter and use Vietnamese ports to land and transship fish.

Viet Nam will coordinate with the member countries and international community in managing, preventing, detering and eliminating IUU activities in accordance with regional and international regulations, contributing to ensuring global food security.

The Southeast Asian country will also roll up sleeves to remove the “yellow card” warning on Vietnamese seafood based on the recommendations of the European Commission.

In order to achieve the above targets, the Government will step up improving awareness of businesses, vessel owners, captains and fishermen through occupational training programs.

Coordinating regulations for actions of competent agencies and authorities will also be put in place to timely detect and handle violations of the measures enshrined in the agreement.

The Government will also review and name designated ports for foreign-flagged vessels to land and improve the legal framework to ensure effective enforcement of the agreement./.

Can Tho hotels, tourism services offer attractive discounts

More than 20 travel agencies including hotels, resorts and tour operators have registered for the Can Tho’s tourism stimulus programme, according to the city's Department of Culture, Sports and Tourism.

The programme offers reductions in room rates and tourism services.

Specifically, some four- to five-star hotels will reduce 20 percent of the room rate and 10 percent of the rent for conference and seminar rooms.

Some tourism destinations have also offered attractive discounts on their services.

Travel agencies with branches in the Mekong Delta city have also participated in the stimulus programme, offering discouts ranging from 10 percent to 54 percent on some of their tours.

Nguyen Khanh Tung, director of Can Tho municipal Department of Culture, Sports and Tourism, said that a tourism festival would be held between June 19 and 20 in the city to introduce new tourism products and connect tourism businesses./.

Cambodia to lose 3 billion USD in revenue from tourism sector

Cambodia will see a huge loss in revenue generated from tourism sector of around 3 billion USD this year due to the COVID-19 pandemic spread, Khmer Times reported.

Minister of Tourism Thong Khon reportedly said during the launch of additional safety measures for tourism-based business that the pandemic has hardest hit the tourism sector around the world and Cambodia will see its foreign and local visitors decline by about 70 percent and 50 percent respectively this year.

During the first four months, Cambodia welcomed 1.16 million foreign visitors, a decline of 52 percent compared with the same period last year, he said.

The country's Ministry of Tourism this week has introduced additional safety measures for hotels, guesthouses, restaurants, resorts and transportation to contain the pandemic spread after signs of tourism activities are rebounding.

So far, around 3,000 tourism-related businesses in Cambodia have been closed, leaving more than 45,400 people unemployed, according to the minister.

Kien Giang steps up export promotions

The Mekong province of Kien Giang is taking steps to promote exports to compensate for damage caused by the effects of COVID-19 and saline intrusion.

The province’s Agriculture Department has been asked to prepare for the summer – autumn and autumn – winter crops and for aquaculture activities, especially shrimp breeding in brackish water, to supply shrimp to the local market and to shrimp processing exporters.

Banks in Kien Giang have launched preferential credit packages for enterprises that process products for export. Agencies in the province have also launched promotion programmes to seek markets globally and have provided support to enterprises for imports and exports of materials and machinery and equipment.

The province is increasingly using e-commerce to promote business information and online business services, and to advertise products.

Exporters aim to find new markets to replace traditional markets, and will seek more opportunities to export rice and seafood, the two major products of Kien Giang.

According to the Kien Giang Department of Trade and Industry, the province attained total import – export value of 63.8 USD million in May, an increase of 37.6 per cent compared with April.

This included exports of 35.6 million USD (up by 77.4 percent) and 21.7 million USD in seafood exports.

For the first five months, Kiên Giang reported export turnover of 271.6 million USD, up by 4.6 percent and accounting for 34.8 percent of 2020 plan.

Thai economy to see post-pandemic U-shaped recovery

The Thai economy is forecast to experience a U-shaped economic recovery and a return to pre-pandemic growth levels in two years.

Yunyong Thaicharoen, chief economist of the Siam Commercial Bank's Economic Intelligence Centre (EIC), said that the country’s GDP growth will show pre-coronavirus levels by early 2022.

The worst contraction is expected to be seen this quarter at 12.1 percent, before narrowing to 9.2 percent in the third quarter and 6.7 percent in the fourth, he said.

The EIC lowered its economic growth forecast for 2020 to a 7.3 percent contraction from a 5.6 percent fall predicted earlier, assuming that the number of foreign tourist arrivals will plunge 75.3 percent from last year to 9.8 million.

Thailand’s conomic growth shrank 1.8 percent year-on-year in the first quarter, the deepest contraction since the flood-hit fourth quarter of 2011./.

Cambodia to export 500,000 tonnes of mangoes to China annually

Cambodia will soon export mango to China to expand its agricultural product exports to foreign markets.

The two countries have scheduled to ink a protocol on phytosanitary for mango export on June 9 in Phnom Penh.

Once signed, mango will be included with other agricultural products from Cambodia to China such as rice, cassava chips, and banana.

Cambodia can export about 500,000 tonnes of high quality mangos per year to China.

The mango export will contribute to further boost the agricultural sector of Cambodia.

The country can produce about 1.89 million tonnes of fresh mango a year and other main markets for the Cambodian fruit are Thailand, Vietnam, France, Russia, and the Republic of Korea./.

Ninh Thuận farmers switch from rice to asparagus

The south-central province of Ninh Thuận is encouraging farmers in drought-prone areas to grow asparagus to improve their incomes.

 

Asparagus is one of the province’s 12 specifically identified agricultural products since it is suitable for growing in Ninh Thuận, which has the least rainfall in the country and frequent droughts and sandy soil in many areas.

The province has zoned sandy soil areas in Ninh Phước, Ninh Hải and Thuận Bắc districts and Phan Rang - Tháp Chàm City as asparagus-growing areas, according to its Department of Agriculture and Rural Development.

Many farmers have switched to asparagus in recent years because it has steady demand and provides a stable income.

Từ Văn Hai, a member of the Tuấn Tú Co-operative in Ninh Phước’s An Hải Commune that specialises in growing asparagus, has switched from vegetables to asparagus.

“After joining the co-operative to grow asparagus, my family has a stable income,” he said.

Asparagus plants can be harvested for their edible young stems within eight months and farmers can harvest them for up to eight years.  

According to Hùng Ky, director of the co-operative, asparagus farmers earn VNĐ200 million (US$8,620) per hectare per year.

The lives of farmers in An Hải Commune have improved significantly in the last three years due to the plant.

The co-operative has 63 members who grow 35ha of asparagus under the large-field model, in which they use common farming methods and schedules.

The co-operative plans to expand its asparagus cultivation to 45ha and achieve an output of 65 tonnes this year. 

Many farmers have turned their unproductive rice fields and those without guaranteed irrigation into asparagus farms.

Nguyễn Châu Cảnh, head of the Thuận Bắc District Bureau of Agriculture and Rural Development, said rice farmers in the district switched to other crops on more than 70ha, including 13ha of asparagus, in the 2019 - 20 winter – spring crop because of a drought and lack of irrigation.

The asparagus crop had been harvested and the income was thrice that of rice, he said.

The province has encouraged localities to stop growing rice on low-yield lands and grow other crops that require less water and have a high value like asparagus.       

The Department of Agriculture and Rural Development has instructed its Agriculture Extension Centre to develop asparagus growing models and transfer farming techniques to farmers.

The province, which has more than 500ha under asparagus, offers support to companies and co-operatives that invest in cultivation and processing of the plant.

Co-operatives are provided financial support to buy seedlings, install efficient irrigation systems, establish large asparagus fields, and grow their asparagus to Vietnamese good agricultural practices (VietGAP) standards.

The province’s two key asparagus growing areas are An Hải Commune in Ninh Phước District and Văn Hải Ward in Phan Rang – Tháp Chàm City.

Phan Quang Thựu, deputy director of the department, said the province had invested more than VNĐ120 billion ($5.2 million) in building irrigation and power infrastructure for asparagus in An Hải Commune.

It built a wholesale market to promote trade and sale of farmers’ produce, he said.

The asparagus is used as food, tea and cosmetics. 

Kien Giang steps up export promotions

The Mekong province of Kien Giang is taking steps to promote exports to compensate for damages caused by the effects of COVID-19 and saline intrusion.

The province’s Agriculture Department has been asked to prepare for the summer – autumn and autumn – winter crops and for aquaculture activities, especially shrimp breeding in brackish water, to supply shrimp to the local market and to shrimp processing exporters.

Banks in Kien Giang have launched preferential credit packages for enterprises that process products for export. Agencies in the province have also launched promotion programmes to seek markets globally and have provided support to enterprises for imports and exports of materials and machinery and equipment.

The province is increasingly using e-commerce to promote business information and online business services, and to advertise products.

Exporters aim to find new markets to replace traditional markets, and will seek more opportunities to export rice and seafood, the two major products of Kien Giang.

According to the Kien Giang Department of Trade and Industry, the province attained total import – export value of US$63.8 million in May, an increase of 37.6 per cent compared with April.

This included exports of US$35.6 million (up by 77.4 per cent) and US$21.7 million in seafood exports.

For the first five months, Kien Giang reported export turnover of US$271.6 million, up by 4.6 per cent and accounting for 34.8 per cent of 2020 plan.

Ngo Cong Tuoc, director of Kien Giang Department of Trade and Industry, said export revenue of all products, especially rice, was higher than sales recorded in April. He said rice export revenues rose significantly as exporters in Kien Giang had signed many new contracts for rice exports.

Many companies from American and European markets have maintained imports from Viet Nam, especially food and foodstuffs, and processed and canned food, according to Tuoc.

Due to the effects of the COVID-19 pandemic, exports of Viet Nam’s goods face challenges as purchasing power has dropped in countries hit hard by the pandemic.

However, there are opportunities for Kien Giang products as China and other countries are expected to promote import of goods once the COVID-19 pandemic is under control.

SMEs urged to have deep understanding on EVFTA

The EU - Viet Nam Free Trade Agreement (EVFTA) is expected to bring both opportunities and challenges for businesses, especially small-and-medium sized enterprises (SMEs). This was why SMEs should fully understand the provisions of the EVFTA.

Minister of Industry and Trade Tran Tuan Anh made the statement at a conference supporting SMEs in taking advantage of opportunities to effectively implement the EVFTA held in Ha Noi on Friday.

Anh said there were many issues the SME community should consider during the implementation of FTAs. For example, these include the ability to access and understand legal information, commitments in agreements as well as the implementation process.

According to the minister the EVFTA is a new generation FTA with the strongest commitments for the EU and Viet Nam on opening their markets, reforms of administrative procedures, institutions and policies. As soon as the agreement takes effect, EU commits to removing 85.6 per cent of tariffs, equal to 70.3 per cent of the country’s total export turnover to the EU.

Seven years after the EVFTA takes effect, the EU will remove 99.2 per cent of import taxes, or 99.7 per cent of export turnover from Viet Nam to the EU.

The remaining products will enjoy zero tax.

It means that nearly 100 per cent of Vietnamese goods exported to the EU will see import taxes abolished after a roadmap of seven years.

This creates big opportunities for local firms to expand their export markets to the EU and the same opportunities for European businesses.

Economists say the EVFTA has been expected to increase Viet Nam's exports by 2.18 to 3.25 per cent in the 2019-23 period and 4.75 to 5.3 in the 2024-33 period.

However, the EVFTA will also bring challenges for SMEs, which account for 97 per cent of total businesses in the country. With 27 countries and a population of more than 450 million people, as well as per capita income of about US$36,000, the EU is also a demanding market, requiring high product quality. This is the biggest challenge for SMEs.

Nguyen Van Than, chairman of the Viet Nam Association of Small and Medium Enterprises said the opportunity provided by the EVFTA would be huge, but the challenge for Vietnamese businesses in joining this agreement would not be small.

“The biggest challenge for SMEs is technical barriers. Vietnamese companies would have to face requirements of food hygiene and safety, epidemiological hygiene, codes of conduct, regulations on environmental protection, and origin of goods imported into the EU. The regulations on localisation rate will also cause many difficulties for businesses,” Than said.

He said the competition with EU goods would also be a challenge for SMEs.

"When opening Viet Nam’s market for EU goods, it means that Vietnamese enterprises will have to accept fair competition with EU businesses. These are capitalised businesses with high quality goods, beautiful designs, and high competitiveness thanks to the benefits of EVFTA tax exemption," he said. Therefore, Vietnamese businesses would be under great competitive pressure right at home.

“In addition, in terms of trade remedies, when tariff barriers are no longer an effective tool to protect businesses, import markets tend to apply anti-dumping and anti-subsidy or safeguarding measures to protect domestic production,” he said.

At the same time, when the economy is open under EVFTA commitments, production transition processes start to form. There will be a wave of investors from the EU flooding into the country, creating competition for labour resources in industries. Some industries therefore will lack workers.

The chairman said Vietnamese SMEs would also face difficulties of information shortage of the EU market as well as regulations on imported goods. Vietnamese enterprises had not yet been prepared with adequate knowledge and skills on exporting goods to the EU as well as lack of capital for production and business.

He proposed that the Government should accelerate administrative reforms while completing policies and institution to submit to the National Assembly for approval some important laws such as the Enterprise Law, Environment Protection Law and Labour Law to suit the EVFTA’s regulations. This would be a legal foundation for firms to effectively implement the EVFTA.

The Government should also organise training courses on the EVFTA to improve businesses’ awareness regarding the agreement.

The EVFTA is expected to be approved by the National Assembly on June 8. The agreement would take effect from July 2020.

HCM City industrial production recovers in May

HCM City’s index of industrial production is expected to increase by 7.94 per cent month-on-month in May but decline by 7.16 per cent from a year earlier, according to the city Statistics Office.

The office blamed the year-on-year decrease on the fact that the COVID-19 pandemic has not been controlled in Viet Nam’s major trading partners such as the US, Europe, India, Indonesia, the Netherlands and Singapore.

In the first five months, the sectors that achieved sharp increases were chemicals and chemical products (up 23.2 per cent), medicines, pharmaceutical chemicals and pharmaceutical raw materials (19.4 per cent), and electronics, computers and optical products (11.8 per cent).

Those that declined included metal production (down 46.5 per cent), wood and bamboo and wooden products (34.1 per cent), machinery and equipment (24.6 per cent), pre-fabricated metal products (22.8 per cent), and beverages (21.2 per cent).

The inventory index of the processing and manufacturing industry was estimated to increase by 9.2 per cent year-on-year.

In the first five months, the electrical equipment segment saw inventories rise by 84.4 per cent, the chemicals and chemical products industry by 67.2 per cent and the metals industry by 43.3 per cent.

The index dropped sharply in the cases of some industries such as leather products (91.8 per cent); wood and bamboo products except beds, wardrobes, tables, and chairs (24.5 per cent) and other machinery and equipment (21.7 per cent).

According to a survey by the HCM City Statistics Department of more than 16,300 enterprises in various industries, 49.45 per cent of enterprises affected by the pandemic thought that the domestic consumer market has shrunk. Some 15.32 per cent said manufactured goods could not be consumed domestically.

More than half of State-owned enterprises and 48.45 per cent of FDI enterprises with exports said they have been unable to export this year.

Pham Thanh Kien, director of the city Department of Industry and Trade, said the department is working with the Statistics Office and other agencies to monitor the production and consumption situation to take measures to support business during the rest of the year.

Speaking at a recent meeting, Nguyen Thien Nhan, secretary of the city Party Committee, said the city is seeking opinions from experts and enterprises on the best way to revive the economy.

“The priority is to prevent bankruptcy of enterprises by providing incomes to workers so that [the companies] can keep their [workers]. He was referring to the fact that the city was planning to pay the wages of workers working for companies.

“We must ensure that enterprises restore production and services as soon as possible to meet domestic demand.

“It is important to encourage domestic production to replace imported goods and expand domestic value chains.”

Seminar calls for farm co-operation down south

Localities in the Southern Key Economic Region need to enhance co-operation to develop safe agricultural areas and ensure consumption of safe food and farm produce, a seminar heard in HCM City yesterday.

Nguyen Huynh Trang, deputy chairman of the city Department of Industry and Trade, said linkages for production and consumption of agricultural products and foods is important for promoting economic development in the region and the application of good agricultural practices.

As the chair of the Southern Key Economic Region Council, the city has assigned the HCM City University of Economics in collaboration with the city Department of Industry and Trade, and partners to develop a project named "Building linkages in production and consumption of agricultural products and foodstuffs towards ensuring food safety standards between HCM City and provinces and cities in the Southern Key Economic Region."

The seminar sought to collect participants’ opinions on zoning areas for safe agricultural produce and foodstuffs and suggest policies for localities in the region for building linkages in production and consumption of agricultural produce and foods from the region, she said.

Tran Tien Khai, representative of the project’s executive board, said, “The provinces and city in the region have not established close links with each other for formulating production plans locally, and do not share information about market and demand to balance supply and demand.”

Localities in the region have enhanced food safety management and adopted VietGAP standards for cultivation and animal breeding, but only 5-10 per cent of the products meet those standards.

“Farmers have sufficient knowledge to apply VietGAP standards in their production and awareness of safe food production, but many of them do not apply them.”

The cost of growing vegetables to VietGAP standards is higher than conventional methods, while productivity is lower and the appearance of the vegetables is not very attractive, he said.

Modern distribution channels can buy around 20 per cent of vegetables grown to VietGAP standards. So farmers have to sell the rest at traditional markets at normal prices, which discourages them from adopting the standards, he said.

“Farmers usually care about short-term benefits over long-term and sustainable benefits.”

He suggested that localities should make plans for safe farm produce production and consumption as well as expand the application of VietGAP standard in production.

Nguyen Ngoc Hoa, another representative of the project’s executive board, said the region has about 21-22 million consumers with increasing income.

With the consultancy and consensus of provinces in the region, HCM City should preside building a zoning plan on safe farm produce production and trade within the region so that each province in the region will base on that to make plan for its local production and trade.

“HCM City is the largest market in the region, consuming about 50-60 per cent of farm produce and food products manufactured in other localities.

“Provinces all have demand to sell their products in the city and are willing to comply with regulations prescribed by the city.”

Representatives of many provinces and cities in the region said building a wholesale market and centre for agricultural products and enhancing food safety management from the production to consumption stages are urgent requirements.

They also called for enhancing traceability of products to ensure food safety.

Producers must focus more on building brands for their products and improve product designs so that they could be exported, they added.

The region, which consists of HCM City and seven provinces – Tay Ninh, Binh Phuoc, Binh Duong, Dong Nai, Ba Ria-Vung Tau, Long An, and Tien Giang -- plays a special role in the country’s socio-economic development, accounting for more than 45.5 per cent of its GDP. 

PXP Asset Management to sell investment funds

 PXP Vietnam Asset Management has said it would close two funds and transfer them for US$85 million.

The two funds are PXP Vietnam Emerging Equity Fund (PXP VEEF) and PXP Vietnam Smaller Companies Fund (PXP VSCF).

The two funds have been active for 16 years.

PXP Vietnam Asset Management is looking for buyers for the two funds’ portfolios and the company will not seek to launch a new Viet Nam-focused fund.

The company has not decided when the funds will be closed and the names of the buyers remain confidential, CEO and CIO Kevin Snowball told Viet Nam News.

The total net asset value (NAV) of the two funds was US$85.1 million on June 4. PXP VEEF has declined by a total 2.3 per cent year-to-date and PXP VSCF has fallen total 9.74 per cent year-to-date.

In May 2020, the benchmark VN-Index on the Ho Chi Minh Stock Exchange was up more than 13.3 per cent. It had lost a total of 8 per cent since the beginning of the year as of June 4.

PXP VEEF was launched on November 3, 2005.

The fund has invested in 25 Vietnamese companies, which account for 93.7 per cent of the fund’s portfolio.

The companies including 22 listed ones.

Financials, materials, information and technology, and consumer staples are the four main targeted sectors.

Top 10 holdings of the fund include tech group FPT Corporation (FPT), HCM City Securities (HCM), steel maker Hoa Phat (HPG), dairy firm Vinamilk (VNM), and Da Nang Rubber JSC (DRC).

FPT, HCM, HPG and VNM are the four biggest investees, accounting for 17.6 per cent, 17.3 per cent, 16.7 per cent and 13.3 per cent of the portfolio, respectively.

PXP VSCF was initiated on December 8, 2015.

The fund invests in 23 local companies, focusing on mid-cap companies in the consumer discretionary, materials, industrials, financials, consumer staples, and real estate sectors.

The investees account for 97.5 per cent of the fund’s portfolio. Top 10 holdings include Dong Hai Ben Tre JSC (DHC), Vinh Hoan Corporation (VHC), Nam Long Group (NLG), Power Construction JSC No 1 (PC1) and Taseco Air Services (AST). 

Workshop seeks to promote efficiency in FDI attraction

Measures to improve FDI attraction, bolster the competitiveness of Vietnamese enterprises, and make the local investment environment more transparent were discussed at a workshop held by State Audit of Vietnam (SAV) in Hanoi on June 9.

In his opening remarks, Deputy General Auditor at the SAV Doan Xuan Tien emphasised that FDI is a key element in a country’s development, especially for developing countries in general and Vietnam in particular.

Since joining the WTO and signing a range of free trade agreements (FTAs) with foreign partners, FDI flows into Vietnam have increased sharply every year in recent times.

Over the last three decades the country attracted more than 30,000 FDI projects from 130 countries and territories, with total registered capital of 362 billion USD.

FDI projects, he went on, have helped generate employment and train workers, contributing to creating a skilled workforce and helping Vietnamese firms join global supply chains.

He also, however, touched on law violations by FDI firms, noting that annual auditing activities have uncovered many violations regarding environmental protection, land, and transfer pricing. Therefore, the Deputy General Auditor emphasised the need to amend regulations to address certain issues.

Vice Chairman of the Vietnam Chamber of Commerce and Industry (VCCI) Hoang Quang Phong said Vietnam needs to adjust its FDI attraction policies and focus FDI flows on economic restructuring and renewal of the growth model to increase productivity, efficiency, and competitiveness in the national economy.

Participants said localities’ policies to attract investment should be implemented consistently and be based on law and regional socio-economic development planning.

They also proposed solutions to improve the role and auditing quality of the SAV, thus contributing to preventing and minimising law violations by FDI firms and ensuring discipline and sustainability in the national finance system.

Vietnam and Germany launch technical co-operation project on bioenergy

The Electricity and Renewable Energy Authority (EREA) of the Ministry of Industry and Trade, and Deutsche Gesellschaft für Internationale Zusammenarbeit (GIZ) GmbH jointly hosted the inaugural workshop of the Climate Protection through Sustainable Bioenergy Markets in Vietnam (BEM) project.

Set to run from 2019 until 2023, BEM aims at improving the preconditions for the sustainable use of bioenergy for electricity and heat generation in Vietnam.

Besides an introduction to the BEM project itself, other topics presented at the workshop were the current context and outlook of bioenergy in Vietnam, opportunities and challenges for developing a bioenergy power plant in the country, and the nation’s need for bioenergy research.

At the workshop, Do Duc Quan, EREA’s deputy director general said, “As an agricultural country with a strong potential for bioenergy, the Vietnamese Government is striving to raise the share of biomass in its power production. Key policies and support mechanisms were promulgated in 2014 and have been amended and supplemented in 2020 to encourage private investment in the sector. With the measures, Vietnam expects to meet its goal for a biomass energy share of 2.1 per cent in the power production in 2030 stated in the revised Power Development Plan VII.”

Joerg Rueger, the German Embassy’s First Secretary, affirmed, “The BEM project will play a crucial role in supporting the Vietnamese Government in increasing the share of bioenergy within the country’s overall power mix. While wind and especially solar power have already shown their growth potential in Vietnam, the potential of bioenergy remains untapped. Given its specific relevance in the context of climate protection using already existing biomass from for example the agricultural sector such as bagasse from sugar production, it represents an important pillar in a sustainable power transition. A growing number of bioenergy power plants will support Vietnam to achieve its Nationally Determined Contribution (NDC).”

In particular, the BEM project will support the implementation and achievement of the renewable energy targets set out in the revised Power Development Plan VII, the Green Growth Strategy and the Politburo’s Resolution No. 55/NQ-TW on the Orientation of Vietnam’s National Energy Development Strategy to 2030, with the vision to 2045.

This goal will be facilitated through the project’s activities; namely, i) the improvement of the regulatory framework for biomass energy development, ii) the enhancement of the capacity of financial institutions, organisations, private sector companies, and individuals involved in the development, and iii) the fostering of technological co-operation, and research and development between international and Vietnamese stakeholders of the bioenergy sector.

The BEM project is funded by the German Federal Ministry for the Environment, Nature Conservation and Nuclear Safety (BMU) through the International Climate Initiative (IKI), under the implementation of EREA and GIZ.

The project will directly support policymakers and state officials at the central and provincial levels, as well as the private sector (including biomass energy investors and local consulting companies), financial institutions, research and development institutions, and universities who are working on the utilisation of biomass for heat and power production in Vietnam.

Its indirect and long-term beneficiaries are the electricity and industrial heat consumers, who will enjoy the future sustainable, clean, and cost-effective renewable energy as well as local farmers and workers who can gain economic co-benefits from the stable development of bioenergy (such as additional jobs).

After Hanoi, the next stop of the workshop is Ho Chi Minh City on June 11.

Stronger government support needed for Covid-19-hit businesses: Expert

It would be more efficient if the government could waive and delay tax payments for one to three years, said a senior local economist.

The Vietnamese government should provide stronger and more specific support for the business community to overcome hardship caused by the Covid-19 pandemic, according to Nguyen Dinh Cung, former director of the Central Institute of Economic Management (CIEM).

“Support in forms of 5-month payment deferral for taxes, land rental fees, or death gratuity, among others, for nearly 98% of the existing enterprises would mean very little for those severely hit by the pandemic,” Cung said at a talk on June 9.

The former CIEM director suggested it would take significant time and efforts for the majority of firms to fully recover to their pre-Covid-19 state, therefore, it would be more efficient if the government could waive and delay tax payments for one to three years.

Cung said some securities fees have been waived, but the impacts would be limited given the low number of Vietnamese public firms.

Cung suggested the government to cut 15% rental fees of state-owned properties for those that have been forced to suspend operation during the Covid-19 pandemic; 2% reduction in interest rates for both direct and indirect borrowings taken by small and medium enterprises (SMEs).

As the government has planned to offer a number of incentives for the aviation industry, one of the hardest-hit sectors by the pandemic, Cung expected the government to speed up the implementation of these incentives, including waiving fees related to outstanding government-guaranteed loans as of December 31, 2019 for local airlines, and reduce 50% of take-off and landing charges, as well as air navigation service fees for domestic flights from March to September.

Cung said at the current session of the National Assembly (NA), scheduled to end on June 18, NA deputies could agree to cut 30% of the current environmental tax rate until the end of 2020, as well as waive fees for enterprises using water for production.

In addition to financial support, Cung said it is essential for the government to speed up the decision-making process and make substantial changes in administrative reforms.

“The government should apply the Covid-19 fighting spirit in the process of supporting enterprises, so that there would be no delay in administrative procedures or additional obstacles to the business community,” Cung added.

Another focus is to accelerate disbursement of public investment, which is not up to expectation at the moment.

“Public investment is key to stimulate production and consumption, job creation and social security,” Cung asserted.  

“For the immediate future, the government should focus on completing a legal framework for e-payment, peer-to-peer lending and mobile payment, so that Vietnam could really benefit from the digital economy,” Cung stressed.

As of present, the government has rolled out several supporting programs such as a credit aid package worth VND300 trillion (US$12.87 billion), a VND180-trillion (US$7.63 billion) fiscal stimulus package in forms of delay of payment of value-added tax, corporate tax and income tax, and a financial support package for vulnerable people worth VND62 trillion (US$2.7 billion).

To continue supporting the economic recovery process, the government has issued Resolution No.84/2020 in late May, which included drastic measures such as waiving taxes.

HOSE announces resumption of trading after fixing system glitch

The Ho Chi Minh Stock Exchange announced on Wednesday morning that the issue with its trading system on June 9 has been resolved, and trading is back to normal.

The reference prices for all stocks trading on Wednesday will be the last executed prices on Tuesday.

If there was no trading in a stock on Tuesday, the closing prices on June 8 will be used.

HOSE experienced a technical problem in its system from 14:45 on Tuesday during the pre-closing session, which meant closing prices could not be determined.

All order-matching transactions during the pre-closing session were affected.

As of May 29 there were 381 stocks, three mutual funds, four ETF fund certificates, 63 covered warrants and 42 corporate bonds listed on HOSE.

Its market capitalisation of VND3.01 quadrillion was equivalent to 41.68 per cent of the estimated 2019 GDP.

Gov’t proposes raising chartered capital for Agribank

At the ninth sitting of the 14th National Assembly on June 8, the Government proposed to add a maximum of VND3.5 trillion to Agribank’s chartered capital to meet the capital demand for economic development plans.

Le Minh Hung, governor of the State Bank of Vietnam, was authorized by the prime minister to detail out a plan to spur the bank’s chartered capital to the National Assembly.

Hung said that Agribank is the commercial bank in which the State holds 100% of chartered capital, but over the past few years, the State has yet to increase its chartered capital.

Besides this, the rates of raising chartered capital have remained lower than the growth of total assets, leading to a decline in capital safety at the bank.

The bank’s chartered capital currently stands at VND30.6 trillion, while the rate of capital safety at Agribank is at a mere 6.9% in accordance with the Basel II capital standards, failing to meet the minimum capital requirement of 8%.

If Agribank does not increase its chartered capital this year, the bank will not meet the capital demand for economic growth and will fail to offer credit to the agriculture sector, according to the governor.

As such, the Government suggested that the National Assembly agree to add budget estimates for 2020 to spur Agribank’s chartered capital by a maximum VND3.5 trillion tapped from the increase in the 2019 budget collection.

Hung said that raising the chartered capital at Agribank is expected to help the bank meet the capital safety requirement and improve its financial capacity, the local media reported.

Apart from this, it will also boost the value of the bank, creating a more favorable condition for equitization, he added.

Vu Hong Thanh, head of the National Assembly’s Economic Committee, said that the committee agreed with the plan to raise the chartered capital of Agribank.