Thu. Feb 2nd, 2023

Q2 rice exports forecast to grow

The Department of Agriculture of the Philippines has invited Vietnam to join a bidding round for supply of 187,000 tons of rice to this market in 2013, according to the Vietnam Trade Office in the Philippines.

The government of the Philippines wants to reduce rice import to gain food independence by late 2013, but the country’s rice supply cannot fully meet its demand. The Philippines imported over 54,000 tons of rice from Vietnam in the first two months, said the General Department of Customs.

The Vietnam Trade Office in the Philippines suggested local enterprises should seize this chance to boost rice export to the Philippines. This market still has a high demand for the 10% and 25% broken rice categories of Vietnam.

The Philippines would further increase rice import if the rice output in this crop fell short of its target. The country will consider raising rice import quota from June to August.

As for specialty and high-grade rice types, the Philippines always has a great demand and imports regularly. Local firms should promote export of such items to increase the added value of export rice.

The Philippines last year imported some 1.1 million tons from Vietnam, versus 975,000 tons in 2011, according to the General Department of Customs.

* It is forecast that some 2.2 million tons of rice will be exported in the second quarter, taking the total export volume in the first half of the year to 3.65 million tons, up 7% year-on-year. This will be the highest level over the same period in previous years.

At the conference on rice export in the first quarter held in HCMC on Thursday, Huynh Minh Hue, general secretary of the Vietnam Food Association (VFA), said the volume ordered for export is equivalent to the amount at enterprises’ warehouses. Therefore, it is possible to boost exports in the second quarter through new contracts.

Nguyen Thanh Hoang, general director of Vinh Long Food Co., said importers were seeking to push down prices because they learnt about the huge volume of unsold rice of Thailand and India that could be come at low prices.

Under this pressure, local exporters were racing to lower prices, said Nguyen Van Tien, general director of An Giang Import Export Co. (Angimex).

However, VFA Chairman Truong Thanh Phong predicted rice prices would pick up in the second quarter as demand would likely rebound.

He said enterprises should not sign individual export contracts with partners in Malaysia, Indonesia and the Philippines because export to these markets should be done through government-to-government contracts.

In the first quarter, Vietnam exported 1.45 million tons of rice, an increase of 35% over the same period last year. The FOB export turnover reached US$641.3 million, up 22.7%, but the average export price was only US$442.06 per ton, down US$44.52 year-on-year.

FDI capital on rise in HCMC

Foreign Direct Investment capital has shown as increase of 80 percent in the first quarter of the year in Ho Chi Minh City, to reach US$122.65 million, according to the Export Processing Zone and Industrial Park Authority (Hepza).

In late March, the HCMC People’s Committee licensed two $100 million projects of Sanofi Vietnam and Nidec Tosok Vietnam Companies at the Saigon Hi-Tech Park and Tan Thuan Export Processing Zone.

The City Department of Planning and Investment said that HCMC had 78 new FDI projects with total capital of $159.8 million by March 31. This is a reduction of 19.6 percent in the number of the projects but an increase of 109.4 percent in capital over the same period last year.

Nguyen Tan Dinh, permanent deputy head of Hepza, said that despite a difficult economic situation since the beginning of the year, FDI has still moved up because businesses are doing well in industrial and export processing zones and want to broaden their base.

Besides, relevant departments in Ho Chi Minh City have tried to assist investors by streamlining administrative procedures.

The HCMC People’s Committee has tasked the Department of Planning and Investment to meet with relevant organs to speed up operations to attract more foreign investments. Large scale projects with advanced and environment friendly technology will receive priority.

Related agencies should work with district level people’s committees to examine progress of projects which have been licensed and report slow progress. If investors are unable to carry out these projects, the City must revoke or transfer to other investors.

Vietnam parboiled rice has price advantage

Vietnamese parboiled rice has price advantage over the same item of Thailand, while India’s incoherent export policy makes its products less competitive, said the leader of a food company.

VAP Foods Co. Ltd., a joint venture set up by Vietnam Southern Food Corporation, Auro Capital and Phoenix Commodities, will launch the first batch of parboiled rice in July.

The company’s factory covering ten hectares in Moc Hoa District, Long An Province is designed with a daily processing capacity of 1,000 tons of paddy. The factory costs some US$15 million in the first phase, said Arup Kumar Gupta, general director of VAP.

Parboiled rice is consumed much in West Africa, the Middle East, South America and some Asian countries. Therefore, the markets of VAP will be different from the traditional rice consumption markets of Vietnam, said Gupta.

Vietnamese parboiled rice is more advantageous than the same item of Thailand because material rice prices in Thailand are very high, even before Thai government subsidized rice growers, he said.

Meanwhile, although rice prices of India are very competitive, incoherent export policies of this country badly affect the competitiveness of its products.

Moreover, Vietnam has advantages of a traditional rice exporter with several qualified rice categories, he said.

Parboiled rice often has 30-50% higher prices than white rice. Through a special process consisting of soaking, steaming, drying and hardening, parboiled rice is protected against termite and many nutrients are retained, Gupta informed.

The factory of VAP in Long An has access to the rice farming zones in nearby provinces. It is located near the Vam Co Tay River, facilitating transport of materials and finished products.

Through the cooperation with Vietnam Southern Food Corporation, representing 40% of the total rice exports of Vietnam, it takes only two years to complete the factory, instead of 4-5 years, said Gupta.

Even if the business conditions were unfavorable, the payback period would be five years, he predicted.

He informed the global rice trade is some 35-36 million tons, with parboiled rice making up one-fifth or one-sixth. Thailand and India are currently the two largest parboiled rice suppliers, accounting for a combined 70% of the total output.

Vietnam-Japan launch joint venture in electric motorcycles

The Energy Conservation Center under the Department of Science and Technology in Ho Chi Minh City is working with a Japanese partner to manufacture cheap, energy-saving and environment-friendly electric motorcycles for Vietnam.

These environment-friendly electric motorcycles will be launched in the market and it is hoped they will receive a warm response from Vietnamese customers.

After a six month pilot experiment in the City, the project to manufacture electric motorcycles in the country proved feasible as it can save more than 90 percent energy.

The project will use the Bilateral Offset Credit Mechanism (BOCM) and will be a joint venture between the Energy Conservation Center and Mitsubishi, Terra Motors and Myclimate Japan.

Mechanical experts of both the countries have calculated the advantages and disadvantages of petrol versus electric motorcycles. Petrol motorbikes consume one liter of petrol in 40 kilometers or VND544.7 per kilometer and pollute the environment with 2.297 kilogram of CO2 per liter; while electric motorcycles consume energy at an average 29 kilometer per kWh and exhume 0.5764 CO2.

Accordingly, electric motorcycles discharge 75 percent of CO2 less than normal vehicles on petrol. If people use the electric motorcycle they can save more than US$210 a year.

However, Vietnamese experts said it is not easy to launch electric motorbikes in the country, as for years now customers have shown indifferent behavior towards such vehicles, including cheap Chinese-made electric motorbikes.

New electric vehicles have an initial high cost of VND15 million ($719.5), which is too high for many people, said engineer Diep The Cuong from the Energy Conservation Center.

At present, the new electric motorcycle will be manufactured in a factory in the Mekong delta province of Long An with capacity to produce 1,000 vehicles per month and expected to hit the market this September.

Accordingly, the Energy Conservation Center said media should help broadcast its usefulness to people. In the beginning, most of the 1,000 vehicles will be distributed to staff members of departments, which will pave the way to encourage more people in Ho Chi Minh City to use electric motorbikes in future.

Bad debt in Vietnam reaches alarming rates

Bad debt in the banking system has been estimated to be at VND120 trillion (USD5.72 billion) as of December 31, 2012, and continues to rise.

Dr. Trinh Quang Anh, Director of the Vietnam Investment Development Group’s Research Centre, said that the figure accounted for 4.1% of the total outstanding loans, but added that it was just half of the figure announced earlier by the State Bank of Vietnam (SBV).

In his estimation the real figure may be closer to 18% of total outstanding loans if extensions and debt forgiving for enterprises such as Vietnam Shipbuilding Industry Group (Vinashin) and Vietnam National Shipping Lines (Vinalines) were taken into account.

This figure would equal 17% of the country’s GDP last year.

“These figures are very worrying and show an instability in the banking system as far as liquidity,” Anh said.

He went on to say that the gloomy economic outlook may only add to the country’s banking troubles, along with the more stringent regulations for accounting for financial institutions issued by the SBV.

Contradictory results by reports issued by banks and those of SBV inspectors have stirred up concern in the financial sector.

Vietnam also has different standards of accounting from international institutions.

Last October, Fitch Ratings estimated that Vietnam’s rate of bad debt had surpassed 10% of total outstanding loans, resulting in a widespread fall in the credit ratings of domestic banks.

Meanwhile, economist Vishnu Varathan from Japan’s Mizuho Bank, said even though the SBV has been aware of the importance of bad debts and the possible consequences for some time, they have yet to issue clear policy on the issue.

“Because it is so difficult to accurately assess the enormity of this problem, it is difficult to find a solution,” he said.

Dr. Tran Dinh Thien, Director of Vietnam Institute of Economics, said that the lack of reliable data on bad debts is a worse problem than bad debts themselves.

Air-con prices up 15% given ballooning demand

Given the current abnormal hot spell, local air conditioning unit demand, especially from HCMC residents, has sharply risen, leading to selling prices of products shooting up 15%.

A recent report of Germany’s consumer research firm GfK shows that more than 150,000 air conditioners were sold in the local market last month alone, three times higher than the months before and after Tet.

Bui Tan Cuong, sales director of Thien Hoa Interior Furniture and Electronics Center, said air conditioner demand at his firm’s stores has risen three to four times. The sharply-increased demand has forced Cuong’s company to employ more installment workers to serve customers.

Besides, other electronic products like fans, liquidizers and juicers also sold well. The scorching weather since the start of February has strongly stirred up local demand for air conditioners, encouraging Thien Hoa’s system to run its promotional program a fortnight earlier than previous years in a bid to lure customers.

In the meantime, popular air conditioner retail websites like Dienmay.com or maylanhgiare.com have also faced overload in sales. Some retailers even propose customers delaying assembling products while others let customers do the job by themselves.

Nguyen Bao Chau, deputy director of REE Electronics Company, a subsidiary of Refrigeration Electrical Engineering Corp. specializing in making Reetech air conditioners, said that sales at his enterprise last month surged by four times against the previous month.

According to many retailers, the best-seller segment still remains low-cost air conditioners with a designed capacity of 1-1.5 horsepower priced at VND6-8 million a unit. High-end items, using inverters and priced at VND3-5 million higher, have seen a mild sales increase, from 20% to about 32%.

Despite the strong demand, local retailers affirm that the current price of air conditioners is really good and that it is even cheaper than last year. This is evident in the launch of new products equipped with new technology selling for the same price levels as before, they said.

However, the Daily observed that promotional programs set by local retailers are only applicable to a number of products. Moreover, customer incentives including free installment or delivery services are no longer prevalent among retailers like they were a few months ago.

Binh, owner of a store on Tan Tru Street in Tan Phu District, noticed air conditioner prices have marked up 10-15% due to local supply way below demand. He ascribed this year’s limited supply to the fact that local retailers and importers had almost used up their capital to prepare huge supplies last year but suffered poor demand.

Also, local importers failed to give correct forecasts about the current rising demand, which has resulted in a shortfall in air conditioner supply at home, Cuong of Thien Hoa said.

Chau of REE noted this year’s purchasing power for products will be supported by scorching weather and producers and importers seeking ways to ensure the supply-demand balance.

Numerous travel promotions offered at Tourism Day

Around 120 booths of travel firms, tourism schools and facilities offering tourism services from over 20 provinces and cities opened in HCMC’s District 1 to introduce tourism products, especially summer promotions for domestic tourists.

The event is part of the Tourism Day 2013 held at September 23 Park until Sunday by the HCMC Department of Culture, Sports and Tourism.

With this year’s event, travel firms have focused more on promotions to attract customers, while few new tours are introduced this time.

On this occasion, dozens of members of the HCMC Tourism Association introduced discounted domestic tours by air of this year’s travel stimulus program to customers.

The airfares of flights from HCMC to Hanoi, Haiphong, Danang, Nha Trang and Phu Quoc and vice versa offered by Vietnam Airlines have discounts of 38-58%, and thus travel agencies also announced deep discounts on domestic tours.

More toll stations to be removed

The Government has agreed to purchase two already-transferred toll stations and transfer two others to investors under the form of build-operate-transfer (BOT) while a number of toll stations in HCMC are expected to be removed in the future.

According to the Government Office, the Government will acquire toll station No.2 on National Highway 1 and Bai Chay toll station on National Highway 18.

The Government has assigned the Ministry of Transport to work with the Ministry of Finance on a capital and fee collection halt schedule before submitting the information to the Government for approval.

As for Hoang Mai and Ban Thach toll stations on National Highway 1, the Government has also agreed in principle to transfer them to two BOT investors that will upgrade the road sections. The transport ministry was told to negotiate with the investors about the deal before having it considered by the Government.

The four facilities are still active at present, with their operational deadline set for December 31, 2014. The purchase of the facilities will cost VND800-900 billion, the transport ministry reports.

Besides, Vinh Thanh toll station, a component of Bac Thang Long-Noi Bai toll station, was removed in Hanoi on February 4.

In the meantime, HCMC’s government has yet to seek ways to deal with the toll station for the Thu Thiem Tunnel and another on Nguyen Van Linh Boulevard. The city’s Department of Transport has petitioned the transport ministry to give instruction on how to tackle the facilities to stop fee collection overlapping in the city.

The transport ministry as of now has removed 17 toll stations nationwide after the introduction of road maintenance fund at the start of the year.

Downtown apartments not allowed to be split

Apartments at existing projects in the downtown area will not be allowed to be divided into smaller ones or change their use purposes, according to a proposal of the HCMC Department of Construction.

In areas outside the downtown quarter, the department will only consider changes to projects which have had technical infrastructure completed or have not been kicked off, according to the proposal that has been submitted to the city government.

Commercial housing projects when changed into low-cost ones will be priced at a maximum of VND12 million per square meter, inclusive of VAT. Besides, the selling prices or rental will be set based on auditing principles.

According to the department, the State will not use its budget to buy commercial housing projects to provide low-cost apartments. Project investors will have to sell apartments directly to buyers upon approval from the councils for renting and buying low-cost houses of the city or districts.

There will be 20 low-cost housing projects joining the market from now until 2015 with around 21,000 apartments.

Real estate damages development prospect

The real estate bubble is seen overshadowing the development prospect of Vietnam, posing problems for the economy and affecting the financial sector and the society, says a report of the Institute of Construction Economics.

The report was delivered at the Spring Economic Forum held by the economic committee of the National Assembly (NA) ending Friday in Nha Trang last week.

The financial distress of the property market seems to have entered its most critical stage, the report remarks.

Restriction on loans for non-manufacturing sectors has led to a frozen property market, dragging down housing prices and driving many companies to bankruptcy. As a result, the unemployment rate has increased.

It is estimated that around VND112 trillion is stuck in the property market, say the latest figures from the Ministry of Construction.

Hanoi and HCMC are home to many large-scale property projects, making up nearly 50% of the total number of projects nationwide, but these two cities are now facing the most desperate situation.

As per incomplete statistics from 50 localities, some 42,230 houses, nearly 93,000 square meters of floor space for rent, 98,000 square meters of commercial space, 792 hectares of residential land and 195 hectares of commercial land remain unsold.

Hanoi and HCMC have 70,000 unsold apartments, not counting villas and semi-detached houses, with total value of some VND200 trillion, according to the investment fund Dragon Capital.

BIDV has granted the most loans for real estate and construction, with more than VND42 trillion, followed by Vietinbank with VND41 trillion. Such loans account for 14% of the total credits of the two banks.

ACB and Sacombank are also on the list of top ten lenders for property development, but it is smaller banks like Southern Bank, Western Bank and DongA Bank which have the highest ratio of property loans to total loans, about 26%, while SHB has a ratio of 18%.

The above ratios far exceed the safety level of 3-5%. Therefore, up to 50% of loans for real estate and construction are likely to become bad debts.

A report of the National Financial Supervisory Commission says loans for real estate and construction given by the top ten lenders amounted to VND147 trillion, or 73% of the total property loans granted by all banks as of end-2011.

However, according to the Institute of Construction Economics, outstanding realty loans provided by the top ten lenders totaled VND254 trillion.

The construction ministry cited data from the central bank saying that as of October 31, 2012, property loans had reached about VND207.5 trillion, up 3.6% over end-2011.

Bad debts made up 13.5% of the total property loans, but the majority of realty firms can hardly settle their debts due to high inventory, said the construction ministry.

In 2012, around 17,000 construction and property companies incurred losses, versus nearly 15,000 in 2011. The number of disbanded and inactive construction and realty firms rose from 2,400 in 2011 to over 2,600 in 2012.

New Peaks opens Miinh IRT office project

New Peaks Company has inaugurated grade-A Miinh IRT office area in Indochina Riverside Tower in Danang City.

The area covers 700 square meters with 19 offices having from two to five desks and meeting rooms for four to 20 persons. The offices are leased at US$15 per square meter or more each month.

The enterprise has signed leasing contracts with three foreign companies that will open representative offices in the city.

Christopher Vanloo, managing director of New Peaks, said that Miinh IRT with cost-saving facilities is a good choice for newly-established small and medium-sized firms.

New Peaks specializes in grade A office building management and provision of real estate management courses.

G-bond sales meet 43.6% of target

Over VND65.4 trillion was mobilized from government bond sales in the first quarter, meeting 43.6% of the year’s target, according to the State Treasury.

This year, the Ministry of Finance intends to raise VND150 trillion from government bond issuance to make up for the State budget deficit, to use it for investment and development

Government bond sales have exceeded targets and market expectations for the first quarter. In March, government bond issuance brought in some VND21.6 trillion.

Government bonds sold well in the bidding session last week, reflected in the falling winning bond yields. Meanwhile, the cash flow of banks and other financial institutions kept surging in the primary market.

The number of bidders and bidding volume both increased sharply, promising that the upcoming government bond bidding sessions will continue to be bustling.

The State Treasury in the first quarter mobilized over VND52.8 trillion from government bond auctions, 76% higher than the target for the first quarter and meeting 35% of the year’s target.

Vietnam Development Bank obtained more than VND8.5 trillion worth of government bonds via auction, accomplishing 21% of the target for the whole year, while Vietnam Bank for Social Policies got VND1.4 trillion, 8% of the year’s target. Government bonds were also sold via other channels.

Bao Viet Securities Co. (BVSC) attributed the success of the government bond bidding sessions in the first quarter to negative credit growth and ample liquidity of the banking system.

In addition, the market situation in the first quarter was favorable for capital mobilization via government bond sale. The demand for government bonds was quite buoyant with bidding volume 1.12-5.11 times higher than the volume on offer, said BVSC.

The bid winning percentage was up to 90-100% although bond yields kept dropping. By the end of the first quarter, bond yields had declined 50-100 basis points against the year’s beginning.

Last week, government bond yields for one, two, three and five-year terms steeply fell 27-50 basis points, while the rates for terms of over five years dwindled 15 points.

Even though bond yields are plunging to the lowest level in many years, investment in government bonds is currently safe and preferred by banks.

Sumitomo Life takes part in Bao Viet’s business

Japanese insurer Sumitomo Life has sent some members to join the board of directors of Bao Viet Holdings and dispatched a number of experts to learn about daily operations of the local firm to set up a long-term cooperation plan.

Sumitomo Life has completed procedures to acquire an 18% stake in Bao Viet Holdings from HSBC, making it a foreign strategic partner of the local group.

Speaking at the press conference last Friday, Nguyen Thi Phuc Lam, general director of Bao Viet Holdings, said that the Japanese firm is composing a letter of commitment to give technical supports to Bao Viet within the next three months.

Lam told the Daily that the Japanese firm will help Bao Viet improve life products in the coming time.

Meanwhile, HSBC still maintains technical assistance for Bao Viet until October 15 as earlier scheduled. HSBC will also support Sumitomo Life in transferring techniques to the new partner.

Last year, Bao Viet Holdings obtained around VND16 trillion in revenues and VND1.86 trillion in pre-tax profits, up 7.6% and 22.4% against 2012. The enterprise has plans to pay dividend in cash for shareholders at 15%.

Bao Viet Insurance Corporation has also got approval from the Ministry of Finance to spur its charter capital from VND1.5 trillion to VND2 trillion.

The move aims to help the enterprise improve financial capability and solvency to better market exploitation.

IT industry still faces many barriers

The information technology (IT) industry in HCMC is still facing a lot of difficulties in recruiting experts for development due to the current poor incentives at home, heard a meeting between the city’s leaders and related agencies on Thursday.

There are 35 infrastructure development projects in Quang Trung Software City (QTSC), including 22 complete schemes, while more than ten other projects are still pending as investors find it difficult to carry out construction with the present lamentable land policy, Chu Tien Dung, chairman of QTSC, said at the meeting.

For instance, Dung said, investors want to make a one-off rent payment to construct their factories in the park but they are disallowed to do so as land prices must be changed in line with market movements according to the country’s land law. Investors therefore must pay a huge amount of land rent, meaning they aren’t subject to any incentives, he stressed.

QTSC is set aside for IT development, so applying market prices to land prices in the park poses a big difficulty. In fact, most projects with smooth operation in QTSC were deployed before the Land Law 2003’s introduction.

Dung proposed the local government halve individual income tax for experts at software schemes in his facility as seen in economic zones, adding this solution will help lure human resources to hi-tech software projects in the city. Philippines invites Vietnam bid for rice supply.

VAMC bad debt settlement ability doubted

The draft decree on establishment of Vietnam Asset Management Company (VAMC) was not passed at the meeting of the Government last week as there were still doubts over its ability to resolve bad debt, said an official from the Ministry of Justice.

The Ministry of Justice has collected opinions of related agencies on the draft decree on establishment and operation of VAMC. According to the draft, VAMC will operate under a special mechanism prescribed by the Government to tackle bad debt, expand credit with reasonable interest rates, improve liquidity and ensure credit safety.

A principle for VAMC establishment stated in the draft decree is that State money is not used to deal with the consequences arising from operations of credit institutions.

However, it seems VAMC would mainly resolve inter-bank debts, while the greatest concern now is debts owed by enterprises, said the Department of Economic-Civil Legislation under the justice ministry.

The draft decree does not specify the mechanism for debt trading and sharing between VAMC and credit institutions after debt settlement. In addition, it does not say whether banks are forced to sell debts to VAMC or they will do it via negotiations.

The mechanism for mortgage seizure provided in the draft decree is said to be unfeasible. The draft decree also contradicts some provisions in the Civil Code, according to the economic-civil legislation department.

Although the draft guarantees transparency in bad debt resolution, the administrative measures it suggests spark concerns over interest groups when VAMC deals with bad debt, said an official from the department.

The purpose of VAMC establishment is to extend the bad debt settlement period of credit institutions, distribute risks over time and make capital sources healthy. Therefore, “those who cause bad debt must take the primary responsibility”, meaning credit institutions still have to tackle bad debt, said the official.

Nevertheless, establishment of VAMC remains necessary. VAMC will show banks the benefits of voluntarily joining its debt settlement process under the spirit that banks have to resolve their own debts with assistance of VAMC.

Therefore, the draft decree needs to be evaluated by an interdisciplinary council. The provisions on VAMC power should be considered carefully because it is a company set by the State and operating under a special mechanism, but it cannot has the power of an administrative agency, said the justice ministry.

Moreover, the ministry said the mechanism for bad debt settlement of VAMC should be specified to distinguish it from the asset management companies under credit institutions.

As there is currently no bad debt trading company in Vietnam, bad debts have been bought by foreign companies at a rate of only 30%.

SBV sets new credit growth limits for individual banks

The State Bank of Vietnam (SBV) has assigned this year’s specific credit growth limits to local banks based on their economic health.

Banks, which are ranked in the top group based on size, credit quality, liquidity and corporate governance, are permitted to expand their total credit by a maximum of 12 percent this year, equal to the credit growth target set for the whole banking sector.

The lending growth cap for banks ranked in the second group is 10 percent. Some weak banks will not be allowed to increase loans this year.

Industry insiders said that it could cause difficulties for major banks because many had targeted credit growth much higher than the cap, so they may have to adjust their business performance plans this year.

For example, Military Bank, which posted the highest credit growth of 27 percent last year, has targeted 17 percent credit growth for 2013.

It may be even harder for Lien Viet Post Bank as its credit growth limit this year is also 12 percent against its target of 30 percent set in early 2013.

As credit growth in the first quarter grew only 0.03 percent, experts said that the central bank should allow banks to expand their lending and only control their credit growth through indicators such as loan-to-deposit ratios, liquidity and provisions in a move to reduce non-performing loans.

Last year, the SBV classified local banks into four groups with different lending growth limits. Specifically, it set a maximum credit growth rate at 15 percent for Group A (healthy banks), 15 percent for Group B (moderately healthy banks), 8 percent for Group C (unhealthy banks) and zero percent for group D (weak banks).

The credit growth limit regulation was considered unsuccessful last year as some banks, which were allowed high lending growth, failed to use it, while others that were limited to low lending growth asked for more room.

Jury out on how to drive clusters

A big question looms about the best ways for cluster strategies to support foreign and domestic investments as well as boost Vietnam’s industrialisation.

Nguyen Van Tuan, director of Thong Tan Foodstuff Company, said that it was necessary of cluster development, but suggested that government’s role in supporting the approach has caused difficulties.

“We are exporters and we still associate with other suppliers. However, it was hard to control quality of material suppliers and is doubtful whether government takes part in this or not,” Tuan said.

In recent years, “cluster strategies” have become a popular economic development approach among state and local policymakers and economic development practitioners. An industry cluster is a group of firms, and related economic actors and institutions, that are located near one another and that draw productive advantage from their mutual proximity and connections. Cluster analysis can help diagnose a region’s economic strengths and challenges and identify realistic ways to shape the region’s economic future

One outstanding company in developing cluster, Ecolink Company, found itself in an awkward situation due to overlapping governmental jurisdictions.

Under regulation on product and goods quality issued 2007, the Ministry of Agriculture and Rural Development took responsibility for initial production process. But the Ministry of Health took responsibility for regulations regarding food safety issued in 2010. Based on differing products, the oversight was divided among three ministries of Agriculture and Rural Development, Health and Industry and Trade based on products,

Than Di Ngu, director of Ecolink Company, said that if there are no clearly responsibilities of state managements, it was hard to implement the strategies.

Noriyuki Yonemura, JEF secretary general, said that Japan has used industry strategies as an important tool of its government to develop the sector, adding that experiences gained during its industrialisation can help Vietnam boost its own process.

The strategy was expected to come online in the third quarter of this year, but remained under review, collecting comments, according to a source.

Under the strategy six potential sectors were identified including household electricity, food processing, shipbuilding, farm machinery, energy savings and automobile manufacturing. .

He stressed that under Vietnam’s ASEAN Free Trade Area commitments, it must cut tariffs in 2018. If Vietnam focuses on labour intensive industries, foreign investors could move into other countries.

Nation targets high-quality meat products, added value

Viet Nam has gradually restructured its livestock industry towards turning out high-quality products, with high added value to ensure sustainable development.

The assessment was confirmed by director of the Department of Livestock Production Hoang Kim Giao, who added, “the number of dairy cows rose by more than 10 per cent on average in the past five years, reaching 167,000 heads last year.”

Speaking at a seminar on the newest and most innovative advances in genetics and nutrition for dairy cows and beef cattle in HCM City yesterday, he revealed that the country’s total milk output last year topped 382,000 tonnes, up over 10 per cent from 2011.

The quality of the breeding cows is the decisive factor in animal breeding, he said, adding that most farmers want cows that are suitable to their ecological conditions and that have high productivity.

Many measures, including artificial insemination, exist to create good quality breeders. Artificial insemination is the most effective tools available to cattle producers to improve productivity and profitability of their cattle operations, he said.

Ho Mong Hai, an expert at the Department of Livestock Production, told Viet Nam News, “the country currently lacks both facilities and human resources to conduct research on animal breeders.”

“The country has imported a large amount of high-quality dairy cow and beef-cattle gene sources to meet local demand,” he said.

Because of this, the local industry needs to regularly follow the latest advances in genetics that allow high productivity. This can reduce production costs and raise competitiveness, he said.

Frank Joseph, a representative from the US Department of Agriculture, said demand for milk and higher-quality meat was increasing in Viet Nam.

This creates opportunities for the country to further develop higher-quality dairy cows and beef cattle, he said, adding that producers must acquire breeding expertise and the latest innovative technologies.

At the conference, two US experts spoke about semen technology, the newest reproductive technology for the beef industry, and management practices to increase the conception rate in artificial insemination programmes.

The conference, organised by the Department of Livestock Production and the Asia-Pacific Dairy Cattle Co Ltd, was attended by more than 100 delegates, including animal health officials, scientists and representatives from enterprises.

Fruit prices rise in hot weather

The price of most fruit has increased in recent days because of high demand in the hot weather and low output in the country.

In HCM City, the price of fruit sold at retail markets has increased by 15-30 per cent over the past week.

The price of small-sized king oranges has increased from VND22,000 to VND28,000 per kilo; that of dragon fruit from VND32,000 to VND40,000; water melon from VND12,000 to VND15,000; and yellow-flesh papaya from VND14,000 to VND18,000.

The current hot weather has significantly increased demand for fruit, especially for making juices like orange, lemon, grapefruit and coconut.

“Since it is the off-season for some of these fruit, their prices have risen,” a trader at the Thu Duc agriculture produce wholesale market told the Nguoi Lao Dong (the Labourer) newspaper.

She also said there had been a reduction in the quantity of imported fruit like pears, apples and grapes, but did not mention why this had happened.

In the Cuu Long (Mekong) Delta, tender coconuts are now sold at VND60,000-70,000 per dozen, up VND5,000-20,000 compared to prices before Tet, which fell in early February this year.

Coconut output is now low because it is not the fruit’s peak season, but market demand is high because of the hot weather, and prices have therefore gone up, according to the Ben Tre Coconut Association. Ben Tre is the leading coconut producer in the country.

In HCM City, fresh coconuts are now sold on the street at VND15,000-16,000 a piece, the highest so far.

Dam Van Hung, owner of the Huong Mien Tay Fruit Shop in Ben Tre, said the prices of grapefruit and oranges sold at orchards in the delta have increased by 30 per cent compared to the Tet period.

First quality green-peel and pink fleshed grapefruit was now selling at the orchards for VND52,000-55,000 a kilo, he said.

In previous years, grapefruit prices increased significantly as Tet neared and declined sharply after the festival.

This year, prices rose after Tet instead of falling, Hung said.

He attributed the price hikes to increased export orders, unfavourable weather and diseases affecting grapefruit output.

Hung said last year he bought about 20-25 tonnes of grapefruit a day, but he could now only buy 10-11 tonnes.

“Many importers have placed orders, but I have not signed contracts because I am afraid that I cannot meet them,” he said.

Viet Nam exported $146 million worth of fruit in the first two months of the year, up 43 per cent against the same period last year, according to the Viet Nam Fruit and Vegetable Association.

APEC promotes sustainable transport

The Asian-Pacific Economic Co-operation (APEC) community views the sustainable use of ocean and marine resources and environmentally friendly means of transport as key components to the region’s economic growth.

Connectivity among countries in the Asia-Pacific region is considered the top policy priority this year, according to working group members taking part in an APEC meeting on transportation held yesterday in HCM City.

Transportation development, which helps the flow of goods, services, capital and people, would contribute to the robust development of the region, they said.

The second priority this year will be sustainable growth with equity, minimising the development gap between and within member economies.

Speaking at the meeting, Tony Padilla of the US Maritime Administration noted that global shipping was the sixth-largest producer of greenhouse gas emissions.

The US, China and Russia were among the largest contributors of greenhouse gas in the shipping industry.

“Pollution from ships and ports contributes to global warming,” he said. “Port authorities and governments should invest in cleaner port technologies to not only help reduce pollution but also achieve a higher GDP.”

Citing a story published in the Economist magazine, he said that pollution prevention was one of the aims of the International Maritime Organisation (IMO) when it was established in 1948.

Ships caused about 2.7 per cent of total man-made emissions, slightly more than airplanes but much less than cars and trucks, according to the IMO.

Under a convention the IMO brought into force this year, ships will have to introduce fuel-economy measures with the aim of reducing emissions by 20 per cent by 2020 and 50 per cent by 2050.

Speaking during the meeting’s opening ceremony yesterday in HCM City, Viet Nam’s Deputy Minister of Transport Nguyen Hong Truong said the country had increased investment in inland waterways, sea transportation and railroads, and that it had taken sustainable transport measures.

Despite the impact from the global economic crisis over the last four years, cooperation between APEC economies has developed well, he said.

The Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation’s meeting on transportation is held twice a year. APEC’s theme for 2013, “Resilient Asia-Pacific, Engine of Global Growth”, reflects the member countries’ common determination to strengthen cooperation.

VinaWealth to launch more open-ended funds

VinaWealth Fund Management JSC plans to launch two more open-ended funds this year after the successful launch of its first such fund last month, the VinaWealth Enhanced Fixed Income Fund.

Sebastian Subba, CEO of VinaWealth, a local fund management company backed by the VinaCapital group, said the funds are likely to be “an equity and possibly a balanced or money market fund.”

Speaking at the VFF’s first general investor meeting in HCM City yesterday, he said the size of each fund would be at least VND50 billion (US$2.4 million).

“We will also look at the potential of launching a REIT (real estate investment`trust) or ETF (exchange-traded fund) in the second half of this year.

“This will broaden our investor base and provide our investors the option to switch between the various funds and asset classes mentioned, depending on the market outlook, investor appetite, diversification requirements and market timing considerations.”

VinaWealth had raised VND53.81 billion ($2.56 million) for last month’s VFF from over 150 investors, with slightly less than half the money coming from overseas investors.

Tuesdays will be the valuation day with subscription and redemption placed currently with VinaWealth and three securities companies, SSI, Ban Viet, and Rong Viet.

Distribution channels are expected to expand to banks and insurance companies.

Asked about product outlook and timing in the market for such a product launch, Roy Fong, fixed income director at VinaWealth said: “From January to March, bonds … have returned 11-14 per cent annually. This is better than gold, US dollar, and deposit.

“Bond market trading volume remains healthy [and is] supported by ample liquidity and benign inflation.

“We believe the bond yields will continue to compress but are cautious that it may rebound in the near future.

“Active management of the investment portfolio will therefore be needed to stay ahead of any changes in the market.”

Vietnam Airlines offers summer promotion

The national flagship carrier Vietnam Airlines launched its annual ‘Hello, 2013 Summer Holiday’ promotion for passengers in Viet Nam who buy tickets from April 8-21 on both domestic and international flights.

One-way fares between VND333,000($15.9) and VND666,000 ($31.8) are being offered for all domestic flights departing from May 5 to October 31.

Tickets for international flights from April 22 to October 31 are being sold for VND189,000 ($9) to VND8,363,000 ($399) per return ticket.

The above prices exclude taxes and other additional fees. The special offers do not apply to flights between April 30 and May 1 or on National Day (September 2).

Vietnamese businesses look to opportunities overseas

Vietnamese enterprises have invested US$2.65 billion in 12 countries and territories during the first quarter of this year, according to the Foreign Investment Agency (FIA) under the Ministry of Planning and Investment.

In total, $720.7 million went towards 22 newly-licensed projects while the remainder came from existing projects that increased their levels of capital, FIA said.

Mineral exploration, information and communications, accommodation and restaurant services have been sectors that Vietnamese enterprises paid the most attention to.

Notably, the Russia-Viet Nam Oil and Gas Joint Venture (Rusvietpetro) raised its investment in a project in Russia by $1.4 billion and the Viet Nam Chemical Corporation added $518.9 million to its salt mining project in Laos.

As of March 2013, the firms had pumped investment into 742 projects with a total registered capital of $15.5 billion.

Of the $3.8 billion that has been disbursed, $2.9 billion went to oil and gas, nearly $500 million to rubber plantations, $400 million to hydro-electric power plants, and $249 million to the telecom industry.

Among the 59 countries and territories in which Viet Nam has invested in so far, Laos has drawn the largest amount with 227 projects worth over $4.2 billion. Cambodia ranked second with 129 projects capitalised at $2.7 billion, followed by Russia and Venezuela.

According to FIA, Vietnamese enterprises abroad still faced difficulties such as insufficient legal framework and slow implementation of many projects.

The agency asked for a legal framework to support enterprises on overseas investment to be completed, together with specific policies for investment in Laos and Cambodia.

Source: VEF/VNA/VNS/VOV/SGT/SGGP/Dantri/VIR

By vivian