Vietnam’s shrimp and tuna exports to EU markets showed signs of recovery in July and August despite the impact of COVID-19, rising slightly against previous months and the same period last year.
Vietnam earned 54.2 million USD from exporting shrimp to the EU in July, up 2 percent year-on-year. Shrimp exports in August were estimated to increase 20 percent year-on-year.

According to the Vietnam Association of Seafood Exporters and Producers, along with the fact that EU countries have gradually controlled COVID-19, the EU-Vietnam Free Trade Agreement which took effect on August 1, has also had an impact on Vietnam’s exports to the market, including aquatic products.

Tuna exports, meanwhile, have recovered faster than shrimp exports, rising 65 percent year-on-year in July.

Figures from customs agencies reveal that Germany, Italy, and the Netherlands were the largest importers of Vietnamese tuna products in the EU. In July alone, tuna exports to those markets grew an impressive 119, 200, and 210 percent, respectively.

New border gate to promote Vietnam-Cambodia trade 

Cambodia will open a new international border gate, named Prey Vor, in Svay Rieng province’s Kampong Ror district soon, to enhance cross-border trade with Vietnam.

Cambodian Prime Minister Hun Sen will chair the inauguration ceremony of the border gate, Cambodia’s news agency Agence Kampuchea Presse (AKP) on September 12 quoted Minister of Public Works and Transport Sun Chanthol as saying.

Construction of infrastructure at the new border gate, which connects with Binh Hiep commune in the Mekong Delta province of Long An of Vietnam, has completed, while competent authorities are arranging the inaugural ceremony, Sun Chanthol said.

Currently, the Cambodian Ministry of Public Works and Transport is studying the possible upgrade of a 25-kilometre-long road toward the Prey Vor border gate to facilitate transport activities right after the gate become operational.

On September 7, the ministry chaired a meeting to discuss the opening of another border gate with Vietnam to ease serious congestion at the Bavet-Moc Bai international border gate.

According to Secretary of State at this ministry Nou Savath, the Bavet-Moc Bai border gate used to have between 250-300 container trucks crossing a day, but with the COVID-19 pandemic, only 70 go through a day.

He said the minister will also ask the government to prepare the terminal for containers to ease traffic jam, adding: “We also want to prepare different lines for different goods containers and empty containers and we also have to prepare a line for passengers and small goods as well.”

Statistics from the Vietnamese Embassy in Cambodia showed that Cambodia’s exports to Vietnam surged 7.5 percent to 592 million USD during January-July, while imports fell some 3.7 percent to over 2.39 billion USD.

Six companies get equitisation plans approved in January-August

Government agencies approved equitisation plans for six State-owned enterprises (SOEs) this year, according to the Ministry of Finance’s corporate finance department.

Among the six SOEs, the Committee for Management of State Capital at Enterprises has completed the evaluation of the Power Generation Corporation 2 (EVNGENCO2).

Hai Duong Livestock Genetics One Member Co Ltd must complete its equitisation by the end of 2020 under Decision 26/2019/QD-TTg issued by the Prime Minister on August 15, 2019.

The livestock company had planned to launch its IPO on August 31 but the auction was cancelled on August 26 as no investors were interested in buying its shares, according to the Ha Noi Stock Exchange (HNX).

Since 2016, government agencies have approved equitisation plans for 177 SOEs, valuing those firms at more than VND443.5 trillion (US$19 billion). Of the total, the State capital is worth more than VND207 trillion.

Of all 177 SOEs, 37 companies are in the list of 128 SOEs that must be equitised by the end of 2020 in accordance with Prime Minister’s Decision 26/2019/QD-TTg and Document 991/TTg-DMDN.

The Vietnamese Government must sell its stakes in 91 other SOEs by December 31, 2020. Those companies are now managed by the authorities of Ha Noi and HCM City, the Committee for Management of State Capital at Enterprises, and the ministries of Construction and Industry and Trade.

As the Prime Minister’s SOE equitisation plan has remained stagnant for the last five years, economic specialists have said it would be very difficult, and in some cases impossible, for the stakeholders to complete the plan on schedule.

But equitisation would be inevitable because it is the only way to improve the performance and efficiency for SOEs and bring a large amount of cash for the Government to boost its national socio-economic development, they said.

State-funded companies had always delayed their equitisation process, economist Nguyen Tri Hieu said.

“They have many excuses to postpone divestment plans, and this makes the Government unable to reach its goal,” he said.

The head of the Corporate Finance Department, Dang Quyet Tien, said that companies had failed to fulfill their equitisation plans because of the COVID-19 pandemic.

“The whole world and the country have seen a downturn in socio-economic development. So it has been rough for local SOEs to find potential buyers for their shares,” he said.

In addition, a number of large-cap companies have very complex financial structure, own large areas of land in various cities and provinces, he said.

“That usually takes government agencies a long time to process their financial statements and land-use certificates, and it’s even more difficult to value those businesses.”

“Some large-cap enterprises such as the telecom groups VNPT and Mobifone, chemical group Vinachem, coal miner Vinacomin and creditor Agribank have not gained approvals for their land use rights,” Tien said.

In addition, SOEs now would need more time to meet requirements to sell the State capital as the rules on equitisation and divestment have been updated, making the process more complicated and time-consuming to follow, he said.

Meanwhile, some local authorities were not willing to give up their power in the businesses as government officials were scared of taking responsibility for selling the State capital, Tien added.

According to the finance ministry, SOEs have been asked to review their land use rights and report the land certificates to local authorities for valuation of the properties.

Government agencies controlling the State capital in SOEs are also held responsible for completing the valuation of the companies by the end of the year.

The agencies are also requested to finish the equitisation plans by the end of the year. Any troublesome cases should be reported to the Government for instruction.

The Ministry of Finance also stressed that leaders of ministerial and central agencies and chairmen of provincial people’s committees must to work more actively to complete the Government’s equitisation plans and they must be accountable for the plan implementation progress.

Viet Nam attractive destination for Aussie investors post-pandemic

Viet Nam has become one of the world’s few economic bright spots attracting foreign investors, especially those from Australia, due to cheap labour, a young population, high education standards, and government incentive policies, experts have said.

The Australian Government recently noted that when the economy recovers from the pandemic, the shift from a Chinese supply chain will be inevitable. The country’s business community has recently assisted many Australian businesses to diversify their supply chains to developing countries, including Viet Nam, Indonesia and India.

Kyle Springer, a senior analyst at the University of Western Australia’s Perth USAsia Centre, said that Viet Nam could become an important partner of Australia in the global supply chain as Australia wants to diversify partners after the pandemic ends.

Australia could export main raw materials along with technologies to develop clean energy to Viet Nam, and import consumer and electronic products and value-added agricultural products from Viet Nam.

Viet Nam aims to become among Australia’s 10 most important partners, according to Springer.

The country is the fastest-growing trading partner with Australia among ASEAN countries. “The two sides need to work to increase each other’s presence in their respective business communities,” he said.

Nguyen Quoc Cuong, general director of USIS, said the lure of Viet Nam was too good for many to resist. “Viet Nam has been largely praised for its outstanding results in containing the pandemic. Over the past few months, my company has traded online with Australian partners extensively.”

David John Whitehead, vice president of the Australian Chamber of Commerce in Vietnam (AusCham), said Australian businesses hit hard by the outbreak are struggling to survive, and want to diversify their supply chains, especially in Asia.

In 2017, Australia and Viet Nam enhanced their bilateral relationship to a strategic partnership, which is important for many Australian businesses, especially those with strong financial resources, sound management and advanced technology, to promote trade and investment in Viet Nam.

“We will see a large number of new businesses from Australia, especially those in the high-tech, education and service sectors, which will significantly add to the global value chain,” he added.

In August, Sydney-based logistics developer Logos along with another global investor established the Logos Vietnam Logistics Venture with an initial portfolio of $350 million, aiming to develop logistics facilities across the key markets of HCM City, Ha Noi and Da Nang.

Trent Iliffe, managing director and co-CEO of Logos, said the group’s expansion to Viet Nam is an important step in its regional growth strategy driven by customer needs.

In May, shipbuilder Austal Vietnam continued to expand its operations in Viet Nam through its launch of a 94-metre high-speed catamaran from its shipyard in Vung Tau City, said David Singleton, CEO of Austal.

The APT James vehicle-passenger ferry is the first vessel to be built by Austal Vietnam. “Austal Viet Nam has started construction on its next project, a 41-metre high-speed catamaran ferry,” he said.

Last month, USIS, a company that assists non-American individuals and companies to invest in US market, and its partners implemented two projects calling for investment in Australia’s Queensland region: a project to install solar panels for households, and a solar farm project at industrial parks.

Viet Nam is home to nearly 500 Australian-financed projects with capital totalling more than US$2 billion, according to statistics from the Ministry of Planning and Investment’s Foreign Investment Agency.

Two-way trade between Viet Nam and Australia reached $7.732 billion last year, and nearly $7.8 billion in 2018. 

Cambodia raises minimum wage for garment industry amid COVID-19 outbreak

Cambodian Labour Minister Ith Samheng on September 10 announced the new monthly minimum wage for the country’s garment and footwear industry at 192 USD in 2021 from current 190 USD, although the sector has been badly hit by the COVID-19 pandemic.

The Minister said Prime Minister Hun Sen decided to increase the minimum wage next year, and it will take effect on January 1.

The garment and footwear industry is the nation’s biggest export sector, employing about 750,000 people in approximately 1,100 factories and branches. However, due to the coronavirus outbreak, some 120 factories still suspended their operations, affecting around 50,000 workers, he said.

The Southeast Asian country saw a 5.4 percent drop in the garment and footwear exports to 3.78 billion USD during the first half of this year compared to the same period last year, according to government data.

Meanwhile, the Ministry of Health reported all of the 274 COVID-19 patients had recovered, and the country has detected no new cases since the end of August.

HCM City to improve bus services, increase ridership

A new project to improve citizens' access to public transport and limit the use of private vehicles is expected to improve the bus system in HCM City, according to the municipal Department of Transport.

The project aims to meet 25 percent of the residents’ travel demand by 2030, set up street lanes for buses, and improve bus service quality.

In the 2021-2025 period, the city targets having the bus system connected with new urban areas, industrial parks, satellite urban areas and passenger transport routes.

Current public transport meets only 6 percent of local residents' travel demand. In 2012, the city’s buses transported 305 million turns of passengers, but the number is expected to fall to 159 million this year.

Many buses since 2017 have had to stop operation. As of July, the city had only 128 bus routes.

Le Trung Tinh, former head of the department’s road transport management division, told Nguoi lao dong (Labourer) newspaper that lanes for buses and mini buses with fewer than 17 seats should be piloted.

Dr Vu Anh Tuan, head of Transportation Research Centre at the Vietnam- Germany University, suggested that these lanes for buses should be on Vo Thi Sau-Dien Bien Phu, 3 Thang 2- Kinh Duong Vuong, Truong Chinh-Cong Hoa-Nam Ky Khoi Nghia-Pasteur streets.

The lanes could also be used by ambulances, fire trucks and other priority vehicles, Tuan said.

In the next five years, the number of bus routes would have to increase by 400-500 compared to the present number, he said.

Tinh said that a proposed project on opening six mini buses’ routes would not require a city subsidy and could transport passengers in the city’s alleys. However, the Ministry of Transport has rejected the proposal.

The city People’s Committee this year has approved supplementing more than 141 billion VND (6 million USD) to provide subsidies for buses. The money was disbursed before August 15. Several transport enterprises said the subsidy helped them overcome difficulties because they did not have enough money to pay salaries for their staff or buy buses.

The city’s subsidy increased from 1,123 billion VND (48 million USD) in 2018 to nearly 1,247 billion VND (53.6 million USD) in 2019 and 1,311 billion VND (56.4 million USD) this year, but was still not sufficient for maintaining bus operations in the city.

To improve bus services and increase ridership, the city’s Transport Department is expected to open public bidding for bus routes later this year through early next year.

Tien Giang takes steps to attract more investment

The Mekong Delta province of Tien Giang is soliciting investment in clean industry projects and high added-value projects that use modern technologies and are less labour-intensive, according to the provincial Department of Planning and Investment.

It is planning to attract investment in agricultural farming and processing projects, and hi-tech agricultural and aquaculture projects in Tan Phuoc, Chau Thanh and Tan Phu Dong districts.

In addition, it also wants to call for investment in an eco-spiritual tourism project in Tan Phuoc District, industrial park infrastructure development in Tan Phuoc and Go Cong Dong districts, and projects in the financial and banking sectors in My Tho City and the logistics sector in Go Cong Dong District.

According to Nguyen Dinh Thong, the department’s acting director, the province has targeted attracting 30 projects with total investment capital of nearly VND11.17 trillion (US$493.7 million) to its three key economic areas.

In addition, it will help investors to complete a number of key projects and put them into operation this year.

Despite the COVID-19 pandemic and saltwater intrusion, the province has achieved positive results in investment attraction.

In the first seven months of the year, it attracted 24 projects, an increase of 11 projects over the same period last year, with total new investment capital of VND10.334 trillion ($447.8 million), or 93.6 per cent of the same period last year.

About 5,980 businesses were operating in the province by the end of July. Of the number, 454 were newly established this year.

Pham Anh Tuan, vice chairman of the provincial People's Committee, said with its motto 'Tien Giang investment opportunities and partner for development', the province had approached businesses in innovative ways, developed policies to support investors, and streamlined administrative procedures.

Provincial leaders also regularly met with investors to promptly solve difficulties faced by them.

Located in the southern key economic region and on the gateway connecting the Mekong Delta with HCM City and the southeastern region, Tien Giang has multiple competitive advantages, especially regional linkages.

It has large fruit cultivation areas and favourable conditions for the development of processed industry, tourism services and other sectors.

Based on such potential, the province has developed priority policies to call for investment, focusing on improving the investment environment and improving provincial competitiveness and boosting administrative reform, according to Thong.

From the investor's perspective, Dinh Cao Khue, chairman of Dong Giao Food Export JSC (DOVECO), said Tien Giang had concentrated fruit-growing areas and transport convenience, and an abundant labour force. These advantages would help to attract investors when they are considering their investment destinations, he said.

In addition, the provincial leaders pledged to create favourable conditions for enterprises to invest in building fruit and vegetable processing factories, and to ensure sufficient supply of electricity and water, and traffic connections for businesses to operate.

At the same time, the province also pledged to create a zoning plan for material cultivation areas to meet production needs of the processing plants.

In the coming time, the company plans to invest in a factory to process, preserve and pack fresh fruits for export and a vegetable and fruit processing factory in My Phuoc Commune in Tan Phuoc District.

It will have an estimated design capacity of about 200,000 tonnes of fresh fruit for export, and 150,000 tonnes of processed products.

Tien Giang has four industrial parks with over 1,101ha located in convenient positions. It also has four operating industrial clusters - An Thanh 1, Trung An, Tan My Chanh, and Song Thuan.

Not all industrial parks are fully occupied, and there is still a significant area of land available to investors. 

Agrico shares soar on earnings hopes due to food shortage

Agriculture stocks are drawing attention from investors on expectations that the companies will hike exports to overseas markets on lack of supply and new trade agreements.

The world’s second-largest economy, China, has been suffering from the COVID-19 pandemic and flooding, which are expected to result in a shortage of food, thus boosting demand for imports.

According to the Economic Times, the lack of food products led to increased prices and forced China to record the highest meat and rice imports in seven years in June.

China’s President Xi Jinping in mid-August stressed that the food crisis may appear in China soon, especially amid the COVID-19 pandemic.

Those factors have strengthened investors’ confidence in domestic agricultural companies, whose business results depend very much on exports to China.

Hoang Anh Gia Lai Group shares (HoSE: HAG) have soared total 12.6 per cent in the past seven days. Loc Troi Group shares (UPCoM: LTG) have surged total 10.4 per cent and Trung An High-Technology Farming JSC shares (HNX: TAR) have increased by total 9.4 per cent during the same period.

According to HAGL, exporting bananas may bring total VND3.7 trillion worth of income in 2020, accounting for 86 per cent of the total, to its member company HAGL Agrico. Other key exports at the company include jackfruit and dragon fruit.

At the annual shareholders’ meeting on June 26, HAGL Agrico CEO Vo Truong Son said banana farming would be one of the key activities in 2020. HAGL’s banana products are now up for sale at most major supermarkets in China and the Chinese market is consuming 17,000 tonnes of bananas each year.

The company’s vice chairman Do Xuan Dien said there was still room for the company to boost its production, competitors were coming from the Philippines but HAGL Agrico had a comparative advantage – which was lower logistics costs.

HAGL Agrico leaders also said the company would record higher earnings in the third and fourth quarters of this year when both production and selling prices were up to meet the demand of Chinese people.

Rice exporters

In the first eight months of the year, total rice export value was up 10.4 per cent on-year despite a 1.7 per cent drop in total export volume. In addition, the realisation of the free trade pact EVFTA on August 1 will help local producers tap into European consumers.

Loc Troi Group has continuously reported lower earnings since 2018. In the first six months of 2020, profit dropped 54 per cent on-year as revenue from selling pesticide and food and rice fell 54 per cent and 60 per cent on-year.

Since the end of 2019, the company has tried overhauling its operations as it stopped selling unbranded rice to cut inventory expenses. The company has focused on high-quality rice for the domestic market this year.

According to VietCapital Securities, the decline of total revenue and pre-tax profit is forecast to narrow to 26 per cent and 8 per cent in 2020. The figures are projected at VND6.16 trillion and VND426 billion, respectively.

Trung An High-Technology Agriculture JSC (HNX: TAR) has recently exported its first batch to Europe, enjoying a zero per cent tariff.

General director Pham Thai Binh said that the company had signed three contracts with Germany firms with total export volume of 3,000 tonnes.

“Vietnamese rice used to be exported for at least $1,300 per tonne, which made our products less competitive in Europe,” he said.


“When tariffs are curbed to zero per cent, the selling price of Vietnamese rice will decline and it becomes more attractive in Europe,” Binh said.

In the first six months, the company recorded VND1.56 trillion worth of total revenue, up 1.9 times on-year, and VND67 billion worth of post-tax profit, up 5.3 times. 

Quang Ninh to offer huge discounts to boost tourism

The northern province of Quang Ninh is set to offer huge discounts on entrance fees to a series of popular tourist attractions, including the renowned Ha Long Bay, from September 9 until the end of the year to stimulate tourism demand.

In line with these efforts, sightseeing tickets for tourists looking to visit the Quang Ninh Museum and the Yen Tu historic relic and landscape site are due to be reduced by half.

Furthermore, entrance tickets to famous sites such as Ha Long Bay on October 20, Vietnam Women's Day, and November 12, the Traditional Day of Miners, November 20, Vietnam Teachers' Day, and December 22, the founding anniversary of the Vietnam People's Army, will be suspended.

This push comes after the province launched a stimulus tourism package in May worth VND200 billion as a means of removing hurdles for local tourism businesses.

The number of tourists visiting Quang Ninh province has enjoyed a partial recovery thanks to the scheme, with more than 868,000 tourists visiting Ha Long Bay for a single day, whilst more than 40,000 tourists stayed for a prolonged period, during the first eight months of the year.

Despite these positive steps, the resurgence of the novel coronavirus (COVID-19) epidemic since the end of July has led to the number of tourists visiting Quang Ninh endure a sharp drop, with lots of tourism activities being suspended.

The launch of these support policies is anticipated to assist travel firms throughout the locality overcome some of the difficulties they encounter during the COVID-19 epidemic, with tourism activities expected to reopen by early October.

By the end of August, the total number of tourists visiting the province had reached more than 5.7 million, including 505,000 foreign arrivals, representing a 50% decrease compared to the same period last year.

Ho Chi Minh City launches new tourism stimulus scheme

Ho Chi Minh City has launched a new stimulus programme aimed at boosting the local tourism industry, with attractions anticipated to offer discounts of between 50% and 100% on entrance fees.

Running with the theme of “HCM City – a safe destination”, the scheme will see tourism service providers offer incentives with price cut reaching up to 30% or more in comparison with normal prices.

The campaign has been jointly implemented by the southern city’s Department of Tourism and the Ho Chi Minh City Tourism Association, which are expected to work closely alongside travel firms, accommodation establishments, and tourist attractions throughout the city in an effort to develop relevant promotional programmes and issue discount vouchers of 30% for visitors.

In line with the stimulus programme, a discount on entrance fees of up to 50% is set to be applied to tourism sites operated by private firms, while visitors will be exempt from entry fees at sites managed by the State.

Nguyen Thi Anh Hoa, deputy director of the Ho Chi Minh City Department of Tourism, said the move is being initiated with the aim of attracting local visitors whilst developing a sustainable plan suitable for the southern metropolis, provinces in the Mekong Delta region and the south-eastern region.

Furthermore, the programme is expected to issue approximately 50,000 promotional tickets, with hundreds of tourism sites throughout the city set to participate in the event.

The scheme will run from September through to the end of the first quarter of 2021.

Thailand to launch new stimulus package

The Thai government will this week consider measures to increase the purchasing power of low-income groups and support small businesses.

According to Lavaron Sansnit, director-general of the Fiscal Policy Office, the Thai Finance Ministry will urge the government’s centre for economic situation administration to approve the latest stimulus measures on September 16 or September 17.

Earlier, the government had said that it planned to spend 45 billion THB to boost consumption among grassroots people and support small businesses.

The Finance Ministry is working out details of the shopping stimulus. The government will support half of the daily consumption spending by low-income groups. The measure is expected to be implemented from October to December.

The measure is aimed at supporting daily spending and reducing the cost of living. It it is not a one-time spending on big items, he said.
Meanwhile, Anusorn Tamajai, an economist at Rangsit University, suggested that the government target low-income and small businesses, because shopping stimulus packages in the past had mostly benefited large businesses.

The government should target the 15 million consumers who hold state welfare cards, he said, adding that each cardholder may receive grants of about 2,500 to 5,000 THB cash handout or credit transferred to e-wallet.

If the government spends 45 billion THB, then it would increase transactions in the market to 180 billion to 270 billion THB, boosting economy growth by 0.3 percentage point.

The Bank of Thailand has forecast that the economy will shrink by 8.1 percent this year due to the impact of COVID-19. More workers are expected to be laid off if economic recovery is delayed by the threat of a second wave of infections.

Singapore continues reporting negative employment data in Q2

Singapore’s employment fell by a record 103,500 in the second quarter of 2020, four times higher than that in the previous quarter, according to the Ministry of Manpower's Labour Market Report released on September 14.

Retrenchments more than doubled to 8,130 in the quarter, compared to 3,220 in the first quarter. This brings the total number of retrenchments in the first half of the year to 11,350.

The number of people placed on shorter work weeks or temporary layoffs in Q2 also rose to an unprecedented high of 81,720 compared to 4,190 in the first quarter.

Seasonally adjusted unemployment rate of Singaporean citizens gradually rose from 3.5 percent in March to 4 percent in June and 4.3 percent in July, while overall unemployment rate increased from 2.4 percent in March to 3 percent in July.

A total of 89,700 residents were unemployed in June, compared to 76,200 in March.

These are the most negative figures related to employment recorded in Singapore after the global financial crisis 2009.

Vietnam remains China’s biggest trader in ASEAN

Trade between Vietnam and China has produced positive results, despite long-lasting difficulties caused by the COVID-19 pandemic, with Vietnam affirming its position as China’s largest trade partner in ASEAN.

China Customs statistics show that two-way trade hit 111.2 billion USD in the first eight months of 2020, a year-on-year jump of 13.4 percent. Of the total, Vietnam exports were valued at 44.1 billion USD, and imports at 67 billion USD, up 20.9 percent and 8.9 percent, respectively.

With these figures, Vietnam remained China’s seventh biggest trade partner in the world and its largest trader in ASEAN.

Amid COVID-19 outbreaks, the two countries have promptly discussed measures to maintain trade activities and put forward initiatives to boost virtual business exchanges.

More measures are expected to be carried out in the time ahead to continue fostering bilateral trade cooperation.

Thai Airways receives court greenlight for debt restructuring

The Central Bankruptcy Court of Thailand on September 14 approved a request for a debt restructuring plan of Thai Airways International Plc, the nation’s flagship carrier, which has been hit hard by the COVID-19.

Thai Airways reduced its stake in May and went to the insolvency court to resolve its debt, which totalled 332.2 billion (10.6 billion USD) by the end of June, according to local media.

The carrier, which reported a loss of nearly 900 million USD in the first quarter of this year, is seeking a loan worth around 1.78 billion USD in the short term to operate and pay for its employees.

It is expected to submit the debt restructuring plan by the end of this year.

The global aviation sector has plunged into crisis by the pandemic as countries severely restricted travel, forcing airlines to ground vast numbers of planes and seek government help as they hemorrhaged cash.

Khanh Hoa province to kick-start tourism in the fourth quarter

The central coastal province of Khanh Hoa plans to gradually revive domestic travel starting in the fourth quarter and reopen to international tourism in the first quarter of next year.

Nguyen Thi Le Thanh, deputy director of the provincial Department of Tourism, said the tourism supply chain in Khánh Hòa has remained in operation during the second wave of COVID-19 since the province is not considered to be at high risk.

The province would focus on drawing domestic tourists back in the fourth quarter of the year and next year as the COVID-19 pandemic comes under control in Vietnam, she said.

Expats living in Vietnam are also potential foreign tourists for the upcoming Christmas and New Year holidays, she said.

The department plans to resume its domestic travel stimulus programme and introduce new MICE (meetings, incentives, conferences and exhibitions) and leisure travel packages to attract family and friend groups from Hanoi, HCM City, the Mekong Delta, and the Central Highlands.

It will collaborate with Cam Ranh International Airport Services JSC and airlines to carry out communication and marketing activities and an international travel stimulus programme to prepare for international tourism next year.

It plans to organise an online market for international travel agencies and Khánh Hòa tourism services providers to hold exchanges.

The tourism authority hopes to welcome 350,000 visitors in the fourth quarter, including 10,000 foreigners.

The province received nearly 986,000 visitors in the first eight months of the year, just a fifth of the number last year, and revenues from tourism were worth 6.02 trillion VND (258.5 million USD), or a fourth.

Hotels reported a room occupancy rate of just 13 percent this year.

Ministry seeks ways to increase imports from US

The Ministry of Agriculture and Rural Development (MARD) held a meeting with businesses in Hanoi on September 14 to promote the import of agricultural products from the US.

MARD Deputy Minister Le Quoc Doanh said that amid COVID-19 outbreaks, Vietnamese businesses are exerting every effort to raise the import turnover from the US.

The US is currently one of Vietnam’s biggest trade partners, with two-way trade of farm produce enjoying average annual growth rate of around 30 percent. In the first seven months of 2020, the two countries’ import-export turnover of agro-forestry-fishery products reached 7.53 billion USD, a year-on-year rise of 9 percent.

Vietnam exports wood and wood products, aquatic products, cashew nut, coffee, rubber and vegetables to the US, while importing cattle feed, soybeans, wood and wood products, vegetables, milk and dairy products, wheat and cotton from the country.

Participating businesses hoped for opener policies, especially decreasing import tariffs and better facilitating plant and animal quarantine.

Head of the MARD’s International Cooperation Department Nguyen Do Anh Tuan said that the ministry will continue working with the US side’s relevant offices on quarantine procedures.

The two sides will actively open their doors to the US’s nuts, almonds and Citrus paradisi, and Vietnam’s grapefruit, Tuan added.

Deputy Minister Doanh requested related offices to continue intensifying administrative procedure reform and speeding up quarantine process to create favourable conditions for businesses.

Cambodia Angkor Air to resume flights from September 15

The Ministry of Tourism of Cambodia has said that Cambodia Angkor Air will resume regular flights from September 15.

The resumption of its operations currently is in line with the growing demand of domestic tourists facilitated by Cambodia being able to contain the spread of domestic COVID-19, the Khmer Times newspaper reported.

The Ministry of Tourism hopes that Cambodia Angkor Air will consider reopening flights between Phnom Penh and Sihanoukville at a time when road traffic is getting congested because of the increasing number of vehicles. This is also a request from domestic tourists, tour operators and as well as the investors.

According to Khek Norinda, public relations director at Cambodia Airports that manages three international airports in Cambodia, there has been a drop in traffic of people travelling to Phnom Penh, Siem Reap and Sihanoukville airports of up to 75 percent in the last eight months. There has also been a drop in cargo being flown in and out of the country by up to 32 percent.

Khek Norinda said traffic at the three international airports this year has sharply dropped because of the COVID-19 pandemic.

Cotton Day 2020 to promote Vietnam-US trade exchange

Cotton Day Vietnam 2020 will take place virtually on September 22, gathering leading scholars from Vietnam and the US.

The information was announced at a press conference on September 14, which was jointly organised by the Vietnam Textile & Apparel Association (VITAS) and the US Cotton Council International (CCI) in Vietnam - the non-profit trade association of the US.

This is one of the CCI’s major events held in many Asian countries, aiming to create a venue for meetings and trade exchanges between textile enterprises, partners operating in the textiles and garment industry, suppliers and experts as well.

The Cotton Day event was first introduced in Vietnam in 2017. Since then it has become a place for fashion brands and businesses to seek investment and business cooperation opportunities.

Vo Manh Hung, CCI Chief Representative in Vietnam said Cotton Day Vietnam 2020 will offer a good chance for businesses to access market information, consumer trends across the world.

The online event is hoped to solve challenges as US and Vietnamese cotton businesses have had difficulties in connecting and promoting trade exchange since the beginning of 2020.

According to Chairman of VITAS Vu Duc Giang, US firms always consider Vietnam as a key market for the US cotton industry, while Vietnamese enterprises prefer US cotton because of its stable quality.

Every year, the CCI continuously organises trade and investment promotion activities, and those to share experience on corporate governance and production methods among manufacturing factories in the region and the world, Giang said, adding that these are practical activities, helping Vietnam's textile and garment industry expand its market and improve its competitiveness.

Vietnam is the third largest cotton importer in the world hitting1.5 million tonnes per year, including over 800,000 tonnes of cotton imported from the US.

Vietnam Airlines to increase domestic flights to serve travel demand

The national flag carrier Vietnam Airlines will continue increasing the frequency of domestic flights to serve increasing travel demand of people as the COVID-19 pandemic is well controlled in the country and the domestic aviation market is recovering rapidly, the carrier’s representative said on September 14.

Accordingly, for the Hanoi-Vinh route, the airline will add two flights a week in September and five in October, raising the total flights to nine and 14 a week, respectively.

Vietnam Airlines will increase nine flights a week onHanoi-Quy Nhon route, raising the total to 15.

For Hanoi-Nha Trang route, it will add 16 flights per week to make the total rise to 26.

Four more flights a week will be increased on Hanoi-Da Lat and Hanoi-Pleiku routes, raising the total to 18 and 11, respectively.

For Hanoi-Tuy Hoa route, Vietnam Airlines will flexibly adjust its schedule based on passengers’ real travel demand.

Earlier, the national flag carrier announced that from September 16, it will increase the frequency of flights connecting Da Nang city and Hanoi and Ho Chi Minh City, with four and five round trips a day, respectively.

The airline is making final preparation steps to resume international commercial flights right after the resumption is approved by the relevant authorities.

Flight schedule may be adjusted based on situations and development of the pandemic, it warned.

Social distancing and preventive measures will be applied during the flights per order of the Ministry of Transport to curb the spread of COVID-19.

To update information, passengers can access the carrier's website, Facebook page, ticket offices nationwide, and hotline.

Seaports to foster south-central region economic development

The construction of a series of seaports in the south-central region is expected to drive its maritime economic development, according to local government leaders.

Luu Xuan Vinh, Chairman of the Ninh Thuan provincial People's Committee, said the 1.463 trillion VND (63.1 million USD), 108ha Ca Na Sea Port Complex, whose construction began last month in Thuan Nam district, would play an important role for the locality and region, fostering economic development and attracting investment.

In phase 1, it was designed to handle 3.3 million tonnes of cargo a year. It would have two wharves capable of berthing ships of up to 70,000-100,000 DWT and another with 20,000DWT capacity.

One of the two former wharves would be completed by the end of 2022 and the other in October 2025.

The smaller wharf was scheduled to be completed in August 2026.

"The port will help merchandise exports, contribute to attracting investment and serve the needs of production and processing projects in industrial parks and industrial clusters in Ninh Thuan province and the south-central and Tay Nguyen (Central Highlands) regions,” Vinh said.

“It will play an important role in supporting the transport of equipment for renewable energy projects such as wind and solar power projects in the province.”

Neighbouring Binh Thuan province plans to build the Son My international port in the commune of the same name in Ham Tan district.

It will have a specialised wharf for liquefied natural gas (LNG) that can handle ships of up to 100,000DWT, an international passenger wharf that can berth ships of up to 225,000 GRT and a general berth capable of handling ships of up to 50,000 DWT.

Binh Thuan province also plans to build a specialised LNG port with a capacity of up to 170,000 DWT in Tan Thanh commune, Ham Thuan Nam district, to serve the gas-fired power plant in Mui Ke Ga.

Among the south-central provinces, Khanh Hoa has the largest number of ports: 16.

Hoang Dinh Phi, head of the management board of the province’s Van Phong Economic Zone, said Nam Van Phong Port in Ninh Hoa town opened recently to serve the south-central and Central Highlands regions.

It can dock ships of up to 70,000DWT now and 100,000DWT in the near future.

Meanwhile, Bac Van Phong Port is under construction in Dam Mon, Van Ninh district. One wharf that can handle ships of to 50,000 DWT has been completed.

Mai Dinh Vu, Chairman of Van Phong Port Company Limited, said though the port had yet to be completed, it had already received many foreign ships. With a rising number of cargo vessels of 50,000-70,000DWT registering to enter the port his company was seeking to increase the capacity of the remaining two wharves to improve the port’s efficiency.

According to the Ministry of Transport, the south-central region will have five key ports.

Quy Nhon Port in Binh Dinh province is a major national port with 18-20 million tonnes of goods passing through it annually. Vung Ro Port in Phu Yen handles 5.8 - 6.3 million tonnes a year. Ninh Thuan Port has a cargo throughput of 15.8 -17.5 million tonnes.

Khanh Hoa Port handles 15.9 - 18.6 million tonnes of goods a year.