By Hanh Nhung – Translated by Anh Quan
Great power comes from a small grain of rice
On January 26, Vinaseed’s shipment of 60 tonnes of premium fragrant rice, imported by Longdan in the UK, hit the shelves of the supermarket chain with a retail price of up to £15.5 (VND465,000) per 10 kg. Longdan is the first enterprise to import rice from Vietnam after the UK – Vietnam Free Trade Agreement (UKVFTA) took effect. In the near future, there will be many enterprises importing Vietnamese rice under the agreement.
Previously, on January 13, the first batch of 1,600 tonnes of rice, opening the 2021 export season of the Trung An Hi-tech Farming Joint Stock Company, was sent to Singapore and Malaysia at a price that could not be better, of up to US$750 per tonne.
Pham Thai Binh, Director General of Trung An Hi-Tech Farming JSC, said the two types of rice exported in the shipment were Jasmine 85 fragrant rice and Huong Lai fragrant rice; of which, 450 tonnes of Jasmine 85 went to Singapore at US$680 per tonne and 1,150 tonnes of Huong Lai fragrant rice delivered to customers in Malaysia for US$750 a tonne. In addition to the above shipment, Trung An JSC also had an order of more than 2,000 tonnes exported to Germany, continuing to make effective use of the EU-Vietnam Free Trade Agreement that took effect last year.
Those are the two shipments that successfully opened the new year for Vietnamese rice, with an expectation of more miracles in 2021 than the previous year. Rice exports in 2020 reached about 6.15 million tonnes, worth US$3.07 billion. Although rice exports decreased by about 3.5% compared to 2019, mainly to ensure national food security, export value increased by 9.3%. The average export price for the whole year is estimated to have been US$499 a tonne, an increase of 13.3% compared to 2019. Vietnamese rice prices have surpassed Thailand, rice has become a prized agricultural commodity with positive growth and is constantly being prioritised in the world market.
Looking at the achievements that “Vietnamese pearls” have achieved in the past year, perhaps many people recall the difficult time in the past just after the successful August Revolution in 1945. At that time, rice also held the most important position in the economy. The new Vietnamese government and the young state had to face many invisible “enemies”, namely hunger, illiteracy and an empty treasury, as well as enemies both inside and outside the country that threatened the survival of the nation.
Immediately after reading the Declaration of Independence, at the first session of the Provisional Government of the Democratic Republic of Vietnam on September 3, 1945, President Ho Chi Minh raised six urgent issues. According to him, the most important thing was to launch a movement to increase production to fight hunger and immediately open a rice donation campaign to help the poor. “Every ten days, all of our compatriots fast for one meal. The saved rice will be distributed to the poor.” The rice grain at that time was more precious than both pearls and gemstones.
Responding to President Ho Chi Minh’s call, Vietnamese donate rice to fight against “the enemy of hunger”.
From President Ho Chi Minh’s call, the Viet Minh Front and hunger relief organisations mobilised rice donations and organised fasting to set up a “hunger-saving rice jar” model, making it a mass movement. In Thai Binh province, where the famine was its most severe, the hunger relief movement progressed strongly, attracting a large number of teachers, youngsters and civil servants. Every afternoon, they donated rice, firewood and pots, then cooked the rice and handed it to the hungry. The Hunger Relief Fund raised 30 tonnes of paddy, while Imperial Commissioner to Tonkin Phan Ke Toai contributed 100 tonnes. In addition, the Viet Minh also organised many robberies of Japanese barns and paddy boats. The fine tradition of mutual aid in the nation was reinforced.
In addition, the Government also issued policies and measures such as banning the use of rice for wine making, removing all restrictions on rice circulation among regions, prohibiting people from hoarding rice and establishing a government “supreme committee for supplies and relief”. The transportation of rice from provinces in the South and Central Vietnam to the North was quickly carried out in order to bring rice to localities in need of hunger relief. With the spirit of mutual aid, plus the positive measures of the government, the rice grains of gratitude and the power of national unity finally quenched the famine of 1945.
Affirming the Vietnamese brand
76 years have passed since these unforgettable historical days. The small rice grain that went through the country’s ups and downs in the past now accompanies the national journey of strong international integration. In the past five years, Vietnamese rice has increasingly established its brand name on the international market, continuously ranked among the leaders at the World’s Best Rice contests (Thien Long Rice in 2015 and ST 24 in 2017), of which, in 2019, ST 25 rice won the title of World’s Best Rice. This title affirms that Vietnam has passed the period of focusing on volume in rice exports, moving more towards the export of high quality rice. Agricultural experts have expressed their belief that, if the brand is consolidated with a methodical and long-term plan for production and export, Vietnamese rice can set the world rice price.
Agricultural engineer Ho Quang Cua and his world’s best rice – ST25. (Photo: Huu Duc)
Currently, agricultural engineers are continuing to cultivate ST26, the next line of the world’s best rice with its own advantages that promises to bring new achievements.
According to forecasts from the Vietnam Food Association (VFA), rice exports in 2021 will still be good because demand for food continues to increase as Vietnam’s main export markets such as the Philippines, Southeast Asian countries and Africa continue to sign rice purchase contracts with Vietnam.
“The Asian rice market has also started to heat up again when a series of potential customers having urgently bought in, of which it is worth mentioning China and Bangladesh. Many other countries also have a great demand for fragrant and sticky rice, an advantageous commodity of Vietnamese enterprises,” VFA Vice President Do Ha Nam said.
Vietnamese rice also has more opportunities to export to some markets where Vietnam has just signed new FTAs. Specifically, within the framework of the Vietnam – Eurasian Economic Union (EAEU) Free Trade Agreement, countries within this bloc have committed to setting aside 10,000 tonnes of tariff-rate quota Vietnamese rice in 2021. With the conclusion of the UKVFTA negotiations, Vietnamese rice exports to the UK will see zero tax and no quota limits.
From the days of starvation to these days of optimism as the country has deeply integrated into the world, a small grain of rice is writing new historical milestones with the country, worthy of its “golden grain” value.
The conference marked the kick off of Youth4Climate initiative, which is supported by the Climate Promise, a global programme through which UNDP commits to supporting at least 100 countries in enhancing their Nationally Determined Contributions (NDCs) by 2020.
The initiative aims to strengthen the capacity of existing youth representatives and youth networks in stepping-up their climate action on different frontlines in order to advance Vietnam’s NDC. This initiative builds on the UNDP’s long experience in mobilising and working with the youth and students in Vietnam.
Speaking at the conference, Pham Van Tan, Deputy Director General of the Department of Climate Chang (DCC) at MONRE, stressed that Vietnam considers the climate change response to be a vital issue and key task of the entire political system, adding that the country has actively implemented the Paris Agreement since the document was approved in 2015.
He reported that Vietnam’s recent efforts in its climate change response can be seen through its NDC in 2015 and updated NDC in 2020, as well as its plans, programmes and strategies on national socio-economic development in both the medium and long term.
Vietnam’s updated NDC plans seek to reduce total greenhouse gas emissions by 9% by 2030 in an attempt to respond to climate change as well as facilitate sustainable development.
The implementation of the target needs a joint effort from all ministries, sectors, businesses, individuals and entire community, in which the youth play a critical role, he emphasised.
Sharing the same view, Caitlin Wiesen, UNDP Resident Representative in Vietnam, stressed that the youth can make a significant contribution to reversing negative climate impacts if they receive proper support and guidance.
By empowering young people, Vietnam can unlock new possibilities, helping realise the Paris Agreement and improving its NDC in the future, she stated.
For his part, HCYU Secretary Nguyen Ngoc Luong said that the youth union will work on initiatives to raise the awareness and participation of young people and the response to climate change.
Delegates at the conference heard the outcomes of the Special Report on ‘Youth for Climate Action in Vietnam’, presented by more than 20 youths aged between 14 and 29 years old from across the country.
By Xuân Đăng
When people think of the most modern and crowded city in Việt Nam, HCM City first comes to mind.
But the city, the country’s largest, also has a great deal of historical value related to the wars of resistance against the French and Americans to offer interest to tourists as well as locals.
One of the most fascinating destinations is Củ Chi guerrilla warfare tunnels, located about 70km from downtown HCM City.
Built by South Vietnamese liberation forces as shelter from US and Sài Gòn troops during the war, the site is known over the world, but even many locals have yet to visit the tunnels.
The entrance of one of the guerrilla warfare tunnels in Củ Chi. VNS Photo Xuân Đăng
First formed in 1948 during the resistance war against the French colonialists, the original network of tunnels was in Tân Phú Trung and Phước Vĩnh An wards.
Initially, the tunnels had only short paths and simple structure that were used to hide documents, weapons and resistance members deep inside the enemy-controlled area.
Only during the anti-American war were the tunnels reinforced and widened.
Beginning in 1961, when the Party Committee and headquarters of the Sài Gòn-Gia Định Military Region of the liberation forces chose Củ Chi as an operating area, the tunnel system maximized its use for years, especially in 1966, against the Americans broadening the war in the South.
With their indomitable strength, Củ Chi’s resistance forces and local people created a system of crisscrossing tunnels with multiple floors, with more than 200km of underground trenches in total.
For a long time, the enemy attacked the base and the tunnel network relentlessly by pumping water into the tunnels, using German shepherd dogs to hunt and identify the tunnels then using bombs to destroy them.
The US forces were involved in 5,000 attacks that aimed to wipe out the Củ Chi resistance base. In addition, thousands of tonnes of various chemical toxins were sprayed on the area.
But, relying on the tunnel network, the Vietnamese liberation soldiers and Củ Chi locals were able to counter all the enemy attacks.
Throughout the two resistance wars against the French and the Americans, the resistance army and the people of Củ Chi achieved outstanding victories.
They engaged in 4,269 big and small fights, eliminated 22,582 enemy troops, destroyed and took over 5,168 military vehicles (mostly tanks and armoured vehicles), shot down and destroyed 256 airplanes (mainly helicopters), sank and burned 22 warships and boats, and captured 8,581 guns of all types. They also destroyed 270 enemy stations in Củ Chi District.
The Củ Chi tunnel relic site includes the Bến Dược Tunnel (Sài Gòn-Gia Định military base, Zone A), Sài Gòn-Gia Định base (Zone B), and the Bến Đình Tunnel (Củ Chi District base).
The tunnel system runs in a zig-zag shape underground, and the main route branches out in multiple directions that connect in some areas, depending on the terrain.
Many exits open to the Sài Gòn River so that when emergencies occurred people could take river route to Bến Cát resistance base in Bình Dương Province.
The tunnel system is bulletproof and can withstand the weight of tanks and armoured vehicles.
Some tunnels have structures that include two to three floors. Stairs between floors have lids that go to secret vaults.
Inside the tunnels are areas that could prevent toxic chemicals sprays or the enemy’s break-ins. There are pathways so narrow that people have to turn sideways to enter.
The exits were well camouflaged to avoid enemy detection. Some of them were also designed as flexible combat and sniping spots to counter enemy attacks.
Around the tunnel entrances, booby traps were placed to prevent enemy entry.
Throughout the war, the tunnels in Củ Chi proved to be a source of frustration for the US and Sài Gòn troops. The Vietnamese liberation soldiers were so well entrenched in the area by 1965 that they were in the unique position of being able to control where and when battles would take place.
By helping to covertly move supplies and house troops, the tunnels of Củ Chi allowed Vietnamese fighters to survive and increase the US and Sài Gòn military casualties until the US withdrawal from the South in 1973, and their final defeat in 1975.
The Củ Chi Tunnels reflect the Vietnamese military arts and the revolutionary heroism and courageous mindset of the people.
The tunnel architecture, with its outstanding innovations, played a part in the anti-American war.
Today, the site educates people about the Vietnamese revolutionary tradition and patriotism and shows appreciation for the war heroes, war martyrs and previous generations who fought and died in the Sài Gòn-Chợ Lớn-Gia Định area in two resistance wars.
These values were cited when the Government officially named the site a national historic relic on December 23, 2015.
Seeking UNESCO’s recognition
Recently, the city’s authorities sent a proposal to the Ministry of National Defence to seek the UN culture agency UNESCO’s recognition for the Củ Chi Tunnels as a World Heritage Site.
Việt Nam is home to eight UNESCO World Heritage sites, including Phong Nha-Kẻ Bàng National Park, Mỹ Sơn Sanctuary, Hội An Ancient Town, the Complex of Huế Monuments, and the Citadel of the Hồ dynasty in the central region.
The other sites are Hạ Long Bay, the Tràng An Landscape Complex, and Thăng Long Imperial Citadel, which are located in the north.
If the Củ Chi Tunnels network is recognised, it will be the south’s first UNESCO World Heritage Site.
In 2015, the historic area was recognised as a special national relic site. For tourism purposes, more than 120km out of over 200km of the tunnels have been preserved.
Lê Văn Liêm, vice chairman of the HCM City People’s Committee, said the area in the outlying Củ Chi District is a “valuable historical and cultural site that reflects outstanding military and scientific work of the Vietnamese people”.
The tunnels have been a popular tourism landmark for years, attracting thousands of visitors each day. Visitors are able to experience the resilience and unyielding will of the people who lived in the tunnels during wartime.
Dr Phan An, head of the Southern Institute of Social Sciences, said: “The Củ Chi Tunnels’ architecture is one of a kind. UNESCO World Heritage Site acknowledgement would not just introduce global friends to it, but would also be a chance for Vietnamese nationwide to appreciate the relic more.
“The site has not yet received the acknowledgement it deserves. Many HCM City residents have never visited the site despite its historical importance. Publicity is still limited, leading to inadequate attention for preservation of the relic site. Only a small part is preserved for visits and tourism.
“It runs a high risk of destruction from natural and human impact. So, if UNESCO acknowledges it as a World Heritage Site, local authorities and residents will be more responsible and collectively care for and preserve the entirety of the tunnels. At the same time, it would heighten public awareness about heritage sites like this.” VNS
Vietnam is waiting for the completion of import-export procedures with China, a stepping stone for the Southeast Asian country to officially tap into the high-demand Chinese market for bird’s nests, which offers a variety of opportunities and profits.
China is the largest consumer of bird’s nests in the world, according to the Vietnam Farms and Agricultural Enterprises Association (VFAEA).
China’s statistics show that the official import of bird’s nests into China was 180 metric tons in 2019 and 220 metric tons in 2020 while it is estimated to reach 300 metric tons in 2021.
From 2015 to 2017, bird’s nest trade on Chinese social networks multiplied by 30 times.
In 2017, the online sales of bird’s nests on the platform China’s Alibaba Group alone reached about US$2 billion.
However, China currently applies very strict regulations on importing bird’s nests, with Malaysia, Indonesia, and Thailand being the only three Southeast Asian exporters.
In Vietnam, the average yearly output of bird’s nests reaches about 120 metric tons, according to the VFAEA’s vice-chairman Nguyen Van Minh.
The Vietnamese bird’s nest industry only started to thrive in 2010, with the country’s production accounting for about three percent of global swallow nest production.
In order to profit from the Chinese bird’s nest market, Vietnamese firms had carefully prepared before submitting their applications in April 2020 to competent agencies in China to gain official admission to this target market.
The signing of protocols for official export of bird’s nests to China was originally slated to take place in December 2020. But due to the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic, the two sides rescheduled the procedure to early 2021.
Inspections and review results have shown that such Vietnamese bird’s nest producers have met all requirements of international practices and Chinese partners on COVID-19 safety, while the paperwork preparation for the protocols is also almost complete.
At the beginning of 2021, the Vietnamese Bird’s Nest Farms Association, under the VFAEA, continuously organized business trips to provinces with large numbers of selected swiftlet houses to prepare for export to China.
All information about the location, production, traceability of bird’s nest products will be made public, according to the VBHA’s chairwoman Do Tu Quan.
The VFAEA also built a preliminary processing center and a quality inspection center for bird’s nests in Ho Chi Minh City to facilitate immediate export once the permission is eventually passed, Quan said.
In addition, the VFAEA has worked with many swiftlet houses that want to participate in supplying bird’s nests to expand the supply chain for export.
Vietnam’s first official order of bird’s nests to China is expected to be shipped in the first quarter of 2021, according to Quan.
According to the Vietnamese Bird’s Nest Farms Association, the number of new swiftlet houses increased sharply, but without proper registration or any standards in the 2018-19 period, causing difficulties in their management by state agencies.
While the Department of Livestock Production, under the Ministry of Agriculture and Rural Development, estimated that there are currently about 12,000 swiftlet houses nationwide, the statistics of the Vietnam Bird’s Nest Farms Association showed that the number of swiftlet houses exceeded 30,000.
However, the increase in quantity does not go hand in hand with quality.
Many swiftlet houses have failed to ensure hygiene standards, leading to a high nitrate content in the nest, which makes it not meet the quality standards for export.
In addition, most Vietnamese swiftlet houses harvest, process, and put their nests up for sale at home manually.
This leads to Vietnam having many local brands of bird’s nests, but their quality lags far behind the requirements of international consumers.
The low quality has resulted in low product values, most of which are merely purchased by domestic traders or exported in raw form with small quotas.
The Vietnamese Bird’s Nest Farms Association said it will give the owners of swiftlet houses guidance on repairing and cleaning their facilities to overcome the aforementioned limitations, in order to ensure the prestige of Vietnam’s national brand of bird’s nests.
The authorities want Vietnam not to follow Malaysia’s mistake where 80 percent of Malaysian investors in bird’s nests report ineffective operations.
The Hanoitimes – Cashless payment not only brings benefits to consumers but also helps the government and the society save time and cost. According to the cashless payment plan in Vietnam from 2016 to 2020 recently approved by the Prime Minister, by 2020, cash payment will be reduced to less than 10% of transactions.
Customers paying with credit card at Hanoi Co.opMart.
Not only the power sector but the taxation department, treasury and Hanoi are cooperating to promote digital application in budget collection. Thu Thanh Hang, an accountant of a big enterprise in Hanoi said that instead of carrying along hundreds of millions VND in cash with many risks, now with just a mouse click and all payment procedures are made almost anywhere and atanytime.
According to statistics of the Hanoi Department of Taxation, currently 97% of enterprises in the city have declared their tax online, with over 95% paying tax electronically. The tax department is increasingly applying IT in administrative procedures such as tax declaration, tax payment, electronic bill acceptance, electronic tax refund and tax collection through Point of Sale (POS). Those applications have reduced cost and saved time for people and businesses.
Hanoi has recently put on trial the car parking payment using smart phones. The city also rolled out free wifi service on buses with a view to launch the face recognition and card readers on buses for digital payment.
Cashless payment enhances transaction safety and supports administrative agencies in monitoring and ensuring transparency of all transactions as well as people’s income, contributing to the fight against corruption and economic crimes.
Demand for cashless payment in Hanoi is calculated to be large, thus requiring the cooperation among administrative agencies to develop cashless payment platforms and support such as internet 4G network, free Wifi hotspots, and POS machines. At the same time, Hanoi has requested agencies in fields of education, healthcare and public service to apply cashless payment.
However, non-cash transaction has been promoted only in public services, while in business, e-commerce is still falling short of expectations. A survey conducted by Vietnam E-commerce and Information Technology Agency (VECITA) shows that there are low rate of online shoppers making online transaction. Moreover, the majority uses ATM card but still keeps the habit of paying in cash after ordering online.
In Hanoi, experts have identified major targets to promote cashless payment including: the youth; super market chains, restaurants and service points involving international customers; big hospital chains; and the transportation system. To encourage people to involve in payment without cash, experts suggested applying bonus points for those using non-cash payment. In addition to updating and formulating legal frameworks and policies for electronic payment development, the transparency and security should be promoted. Furthermore, experts suggested the State Bank of Vietnam to increase supervision to enhance people and enterprises’ trust in the electronic payment system.
Some researches show that if 90% of transactions in an economy are non-cash, the GDP would grow by approximately 1%. In Vietnam, the cashless payment needs to be further promoted, at first in big cities such as Hanoi, Ho Chi Minh City and Da Nang by encouraging people to open bank accounts -Dr. Le Xuan Nghia, economic expert.