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BUSINESS IN BRIEF 20-12Ministry urges companies to quicken disbursement

The Ministry of Construction (MoC) has given warning to companies that have been slow in disbursing funds for public investment projects.

In 2012, the MoC received VND1.821 trillion (USD86 million) from state budget for development projects. The money was provided for 23 projects in which the MoC are investors in five projects with investment of VND1.650 trillion.

The MoC reported as of November 30, only VND735.172 billion has been disbursed, with several key projects still lagging on their disbursement.

For example, VND150 billion was supposed to be invested in the construction of National University campus in Hoa Lac urban area, Hanoi in 2012 but the companies had only spent VND18 billion.

The National Museum of History had planned investment for 2012 of VND30 billion but only VND3.4 billion was spent.

The National Assembly House project also showed signs of slow disbursement. It was supposed to receive VND1.376 trillion of investment in 2012 but had only utilised VND694 billion.

The main reasons for such slow rates of disbursement were sluggish bidding processes. The contractors and consultants also took long time in solving administrative problems.

Two months ago, the MoC urged the investors to quicken the process and requested monthly reports on their work.

The ministry agreed to disburse all of the allocated money for their five projects in 2012. The MoC warned construction companies that they would not be given more investment for the coming year and would face punishment if they failed to disburse their funds and report on their progress.

Consumer goods import still strong

Despite the ongoing economic slump forcing local people to tighten spending, consumer goods whose import needs to be limited have still flowed strongly into the domestic market.

According to the Ministry of Industry and Trade, import value last month of consumer goods like milk, vegetables, fruits, confectionery and drugs reached US$1.38 billion. The figure slightly fell month-on-month but marked up 12.5% year-on-year.

In January-November, their import totaled US$13.1 billion, surging 11.7% against the same period last year, accounting for 12.6% of the country’s import spending.

The nation has imported large volumes of items that are produced at home. For instance, import of farm produce picked up 16.8%, confectionery and cereal products 66.4%, drugs 20.2%, plastic products 24.1%, and mobile phones and phone components 94.7% year-on-year.

The fact indicates a sharp rise this year in the import of several consumer items that should be restricted.

The nation has this year spent US$337 million importing agro-products, an upsurge of 15% over the year-ago period. Also, it has imported US$300 million worth of confectionery and cereal products, up 66%.

Import value of medicines has stayed at US$1.76 billion, up 18.8%, and that of plastic products is estimated at US$2.14 billion, up 24.3%. Similarly, the nation has imported mobile phones and mobile phone parts worth US$5.08 billion, cameras and related components US$1.08 billion and electrical wires and cables US$782.1 million.

DOC cancels antidumping review on Agifish

The U.S. Department of Commerce (DOC) has cancelled an antidumping duty administrative review on frozen fish fillets of An Giang Fisheries Import & Export Co. (Agifish), says the Vietnam Competition Authority.

On October 3, 2011, DOC began its eighth administrative review on fish fillets imported from 32 Vietnamese companies from August 1, 2010 to July 31, 2011.

On March 2, 2012, Agifish, the Catfish Farmers of America and the U.S. private catfish processors applied for withdrawal of the request for administrative review on Agifish. Later, on September 12, DOC announced the preliminary results of the case.

Under U.S. law, DOC will cancel an administrative review, partly or completely, if those initiating the review withdraw their request within 90 days since the review is launched.

Since the plaintiff and Agifish satisfied this regulation and there was no other request for administrative review on Agifish, DOC decided to cancel the review on the Vietnamese firm.

DOC will direct U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) to determine antidumping rates on shipments imported in the review period.

Agifish will enjoy a separate rate equivalent to the estimated deposit at the time of import or warehouse dispatch for consumption. DOC will send guidelines on tax rate determination to CBP within 15 days after this announcement.

This is considered a reminder to importers that they have to submit certification related to antidumping duty refund. If they do not do so, DOC may assume antidumping duty refund will take place.

On August 7, 2003, DOC officially levied antidumping duty on Vietnamese tra and basa fish exporters. The U.S. conducts administrative review for antidumping duty every year, with the first one taking place in 2005.

Apart from frozen fish fillets, frozen shrimp imported from Vietnam is also subject to antidumping duty.

Vietnam-Thailand road extension mulled

As the road from Khon Kaen Province in Thailand to Tien Sa Port in Danang is not currently being used efficiently, the transport ministries of both countries have suggested extending it from Laem Chabang Port in the neighboring nation to Hanoi and Haiphong.

No enterprise has registered for operation on the Khon Khen-Tien Sa Port road since it was opened to traffic in June 2009, said Phan Thi Thu Hien, deputy director of the Department of Transport and Legislation under the Directorate for Roads of Vietnam.

The reason is that transporters cannot deliver goods to deep inland areas if they take this road, she told a workshop on increasing the capacity of goods transporters in preparation for the ASEAN Economic Community in HCMC on Thursday.

To improve the efficiency of the route, transport ministries of Vietnam and Thailand have suggested their governments extend the route from Laem Chabang Port to Hanoi and Haiphong Port.

The road will run along Ho Chi Minh Road from Lao Bao in Quang Tri to Hanoi and Haiphong, stretching some 900 kilometers.

The Ho Chi Minh Road section from Road 9 T-Junction to Hanoi is now nearly 700 kilometers long, with a smooth road surface and low traffic density. However, services on roadsides are still few and far between.

The Directorate for Roads of Vietnam has conducted a survey and drawn up a plan for the upgrade of some road sections to ensure traffic safety from Quang Tri to Hanoi. In addition, the agency is promoting investment in services such as roadside parks, pumping stations and garages.

Laos, Thailand and Vietnam are in the third round of negotiations for extension of the transport route from Vietnam to Thailand, Hien informed.

At the workshop, several Thai entrepreneurs expressed their concern over the lack of large transport hubs in Vietnam. Moreover, services like filling stations and garages along Ho Chi Minh Road are not good enough, which might affect goods transport if the transport route was extended.

Do Xuan Hoa, general secretary of the Vietnam Motor Transport Association, said goods transport demand would pick up if the road was extended from the Laem Chabang Port to Haiphong and the remaining routes were opened to traffic. Then, enterprises of the two countries would have the chance to join hands in goods transport.

According to the Directorate for Roads of Vietnam, the road system of Vietnam is connected to the system of Laos through six gateways.

Meanwhile, the road systems of Vietnam and Cambodia are linked through five gateways, but the two gateways of Le Thanh in Gia Lai and Pup Krang in Dak Nong have not been opened to traffic as yet. In addition, some international gateways like Dinh Ba in Dong Thap and Dong Binh Hiep in Long An have not been listed in the transport agreement with Cambodia.

Billion-dollar steel projects get moving

Japan’s JFE Holdings Inc. and Taiwan’s E-United Group have met Quang Ngai’s government to promote the US$4.5-billion steel project in Dung Quat, while in Ha Tinh the billion-dollar steelwork of Formosa has got off the ground.

As such, steel projects with registered capital of billions of U.S. dollars are moving again. However, some express concerns that Vietnam would become a steel factory of the world and these projects would affect steel supply and the environment.

Leaders of JFE and E-United at the recent meeting with the government of Quang Ngai Province informed local leaders on the feasibility of the Guang Lian steel project in Dung Quat.

The steel plant will have an annual capacity of 3.5 million tons and hire 3,500 laborers during the first phase. In the second phase, the capacity will be raised to seven million tons per year, creating jobs for 7,000 laborers.

The plant will mainly produce steel strips, construction steel, automotive steel and steel pipes from iron ores imported from Australia.

Leaders of the province hoped JFE, as a capable and experienced investor, would kick off the project on schedule.

With the participation of the Japanese leading steelmaker, analysts expected the US$4.5-billion project might not be delayed further after the investment certificate had been granted over six years ago.

Meanwhile, Formosa Group early this month began work on the furnace component of its steel complex and deepwater port project in Ha Tinh.

The steel complex with a capacity of 7.07 million tons of steel billets per year in its first phase will become the biggest steel plant in ASEAN. As scheduled, the first steel furnace will start operation in May 2015.

The project owner aims to boost the production capacity to 18 million tons in the second phase and to 21.8 million tons thereafter.

To facilitate the project deployment, Ha Tinh has cleared nearly 2,000 hectares, with over 11,800 families, individuals and organizations forced to relocate.

The project will mainly use imported materials and its products will be consumed locally and exported.

In addition to JFE and Formosa, another investor will likely set up a steel project in Vietnam. That is Tata Steel, a branch of India’s Tata Group.

Despite many problems in project deployment, Tata Steel is determined to go ahead with its billion-dollar project in Vung Ang Economic Zone.

The project of Tata Steel was first proposed in 2007. With total capital of US$5 billion and annual capacity of 4.6 million tons, the project will be carried out by a joint venture grouping Tata Steel, Vietnam Steel Corporation and Vietnam Cement Industry Corporation, in which Tata Steel will hold a dominant stake of 65%.

Speaking in Dau Tu newspaper, Chairman Pham Chi Cuong of the Vietnam Steel Association described steel supply in Vietnam as “sufficient and insufficient”.

The output of construction steel and cold-rolled steel has far exceeded local demand, while hot-rolled steel, steel for fabrication and stainless steel must be imported.

Vietnam now has to import about three million tons of hot-rolled steel each year. With an output of 2.7 million tons of hot-rolled steel during the first phase, Formosa will certainly aim at the domestic market first.

Cuong said local steelworks can produce some 11 million tons of construction steel, but the demand this year is only 5.5 million tons.

Billion-dollar steel projects are taking shape in Vietnam, sparking concerns over oversupply and adverse impacts on the environment if investors did not have good treatment methods. In addition, these projects will consume a huge amount of power and water, posing a difficult problem for the country.

Giant wind power project for Ninh Thuan province

Germany-invested Mui Dinh wind power factory project has got thumbs up in south-central Ninh Thuan province.

The local authorities recently granted an investment certificate for Mui Dinh wind power factory project invested by Ven-Wind New Energy GmbH Company.

Truong Xuan Vy, director of economic development office of Ninh Thuan said that Ven-Wind New Energy GmbH Company will pump more than $73 million in constructing the project in Thuan Nam district.

“The project would be kicked off in 2013’s November and the construction will last within one year,” said Vy.

According to its design, Mui Dinh wind power factory project, which is planned to cover a total scale of 200 hectares, will have a designed capacity of 30 megawatts.

Vy, however, added that at present, the $73 million project is meeting an obstacle due to a part of this project area concurs with a part of other project area. Now, the local authorities are looking for the best solution to untie for developers.

Ninh Thuan has granted investment certificates for seven wind power projects, with three foreign-invested ones. However, none is under construction.

Located in a subtropical zone with a long coastline, Vietnam is said to have great advantages for developing wind power.

According to a World Bank survey, under the Asia Sustainable and Alternative Energy programme, 8.6 per cent of Vietnam’s soil is considered having potential for wind power development, totaling 513,360 megawatts.

The wind energy industry was set to off in Vietnam with 42 wind projects in the pipeline, said the Ministry of Industry and Trade’s figure in 2011.

According to the MoIT, foreign investors participated in 12 of these 42 wind projects. They come from Germany, Canada, Switzerland and Argentina such as Belgium’s Enfinity, German Donier Aircraft Leasing Limited, Swiss Aero.Plus Company, Norway’s SN power and German Fuhrlaender AG.

SOEs an anchor on the economy

Vietnam’s state-owned enterprises are continuing to hold the economy back.

“The capital usage of many state groups and corporations has not been efficient,” said Minister of Planning and Investment Bui Quang Vinh in a recent interview on television.

A recent government report showed that many state groups and corporations had a very big debt ratio to equity and operated inefficiently, Vinh said.

Under the government’s report on the financial condition and business operation of 91 state-owned corporations and groups in 2011, 13 state-owned corporations and groups had cumulative losses of VND48.9 trillion ($2.3 billion) till December 31, 2011.

Among these, Electricity of Vietnam (EVN) recorded the biggest loss with $1.8 billion, followed by Vinalines with $275 million, Petrolimex with $114 million and the Military Petroleum Corporation with $27.2 million.

The report showed that some corporations faced big risks and could not self-control their finances. This shameful list included Vietnam Sericulture Corporation with negative equity of $13 million and Vietnam Waterway Construction Corporation with negative equity of $29 million.

“These corporations have faced difficulties for a long time, but have been unable to overcome them so far,” said the report.

In addition, some groups and corporations had low total equity ratios of total capital resources such as Vietnam Expressway Corporation with 2 per cent, with 5.9 per cent and Song Da Group 8 per cent.

The government’s report also showed that groups and corporations depended largely on loans, resulting in large financial costs and low solvency liabilities.

Groups and corporations with bad debts of more than VND100 billion ($4.8 million) include PetroVietnam $19.6 million, Song Da Group with $17.6 million, Vinacomin $16.9 million, Vietnam National Airlines Corporation (Vietnam Airlines) $7.7 million, Military Telecom Corporation $6.3 million, Airports Corporation of Vietnam with $6.5 million and Vietnam Textile and Garment Group (Vinatex) $5.5 million.

Minister of Finance Vuong Dinh Hue said state groups and corporation depended much on borrowing capital, which results in big finance costs and low capacity to pay due debts.

In 2011, these groups and corporations also invested in non-core business fields such as securities, investment funds, insurance, banking and real estate amounting to VND23.744 trillion ($1.14 billion), an increase of VND3.056 trillion ($146.9 million) against 2010.

Because operations these fields had many risks, leading to distract capital sources from their main business and production activities, state-owned groups and corporations are under government orders to divest capitals from all non-core business sectors before 2015.

This process, however, has proven difficult. “Due to difficult economic situation in the world which impacted Vietnam, disinvestment from non-core business fields faced with many difficulties,” the report said.

Eugica swallowed up by DHG

Eugica, a famous medicinal brand in Vietnam, has been acquired by a Thailand-backed firm from Hau Giang Pharmaceutical.

Vivel Dhawan, CEO of Mega Lifesciences Thailand Company (Mega Wecare), told VIR that the acquisition was a deal following the commercial contract recently signed between the firm and the Hau Giang Pharmaceutical, known by the ticker DHG on the Ho Chi Minh Stock Exchange.

Mega Lifesciences became legal owners of Eugica, a natural herbal that treats cough and flu, on December 12, 2012 . Under terms of the deal, Mega Wecare assumes product marketing to inbound and outbound customers, while DHG is the partner of Mega We care on manufacturing Eugica product in Vietnam.

“This partnership aims to combine the strength of DHG on the manufacturing sector and the strength of the Mega We care in the field of branding and marketing strategy together to grow Eugica product up to a new range,” said Dhawan.

Dhawan emphasized that Mega We care is first developing Eugica brand in Vietnam, then will expand to 25 countries throughout its global distribution system with the aim to position the natural product with good quality in Vietnam and many places in the world’s map.

Pham Thi Viet Nga, chairman of DHG said that firstly she did not want to put the brand on sale.

However, after understanding more about Mega We Care’s experience in the pharmaceutical sector in more than 30 countries, she believed that Mega We Care is the perfect strategy marketer of Eugica product in Vietnam with the achievement of growth target at least 20 per cent per year since 2013.

Eugica is a combination of natural herbs containing essential oils such as peppermint, cajeput, country borage, ginger, etc. Eugica, based on a folk remedy for cough and the flu, has been made available in forms such as capsules, syrup, tube, candy in order to meet diverse needs from the elderly to children. Eugica has been recognized as a market leader with steady growth.

Mega We Care is currently the 11th largest foreign investor in Vietnam and is the third largest investor in Southeast Asia with total investment of about $5.9 billion. DHG ranks the fifth among the leading pharmaceutical companies in Vietnam and the fourth in the pharmaceutical manufacturers. The company has currently 85 products registered for circulation in countries such as Moldova, Russia, Mongolia, Cambodia, Nigeria and the Philippines.

Vietnam, Australia promise financial cooperation

Barry O’Farrell, Premier of New South Wales in Australia, affirmed the high likelihood of financial cooperation between Australia and Vietnam.
Signing ceremony between Vietnamese Finance Institute and New South Wales University

He made the statement at a meeting with Vietnam’s Minister of Finance, Vuong Dinh Hue, in New South Wales on December 13, adding that the state and Australia are willing to cooperate with Vietnam not only in the field of finance, but also in education and tourism.

O’Farrell stressed that the two countries should maintain relations and foster the promotion of cooperation.

Earlier, Acting Governor General and New South Wales Governor, Marie Bashir, hosted a reception to welcome the Vietnamese delegation.

The delegation also visited the Department of Treasury and Finance and the Department of Business and Innovation of the State of Victoria, Swinburne University and University of New South Wales.

Top performers to be honoured

To honour talented businesspeople and mark the debut of a new year with more appealing projects and business strategies a ceremony showcasing appreciation towards top entrepreneurs, Top 100 Business Style 2012 -Mark of Respect will take place on January 14, 2013 at Ho Chi Minh City’s Sheraton Hotel.

It will attract government officials, chair people of different business associations, domestic and international chambers of commerce and industry and executives of prestigious businesses.

The even will be co-organised by Phong Cach Doanh Nhan (Business Style) publication, community network Bstyle.vn and Phong Cach Doanh Nhan Club under guidance from Vietnam Chamber of Commerce and Industry (VCCI) and support from Royal Salute.

The event represents a chance for businesses to look back on the past development journey, review advantages and disadvantages in business models, corporate governance modes, noticed achievements, talent and keenness of top leaders, from there finding most suitable candidates to Top 100 Business Style 2012-Mark of Respect award.

This will also be an ideal networking event to inspire and promote business exchanges.

Through the event, businesses could team up in handling big plans, contemplating fresh development orientations and supporting each other in finance and human resources for their plan and project successful implementation.

Besides, the event provides a platform where top leaders share their management experiences and expand trade with diverse business associations and global economists.

Networking clubs have attracted throngs of businesses nowadays because there firms would detect their strong and weak points to work out suitable development strategies and steer their businesses in the right direction for a sustainable growth.

The ceremony is expected to garner over 500 local and international entrepreneurs who will join a royal banquet featuring amazing dance performances.

All the proceeds from selling tickets will be contributed to Open Arms fund to help underprivileged children during the approaching Lunar New Year occasion.

The Mark of Respect award aims to honour both Vietnamese and foreign entrepreneurs who are working and living in Vietnam. With specific criteria and evaluation of a prestigious judging panel, these are Top 100 businessmen for a year chosen from thousands of candidates nominated by associations and organisations nationwide.

Information relevant to booking tickets and funding, please contact Duy Khanh at 0989 070 002.

November shows best growth in 2012

The Vietnam Automobile Manufacturers’ Association recently reported impressive November sales

Accordingly, the industry including retail sales volume of its (VAMA) members plus imported complete-built-unit and volume of non-VAMA members hit 9,570 units, up 20 per cent versus October, the highest growth in a year.

Of which, there were 4,048 cars and 5,522 trucks, up 25 per cent for cars and 16 per cent for trucks versus last month, respectively.

Especially, the completely-knock-down vehicles were up by 14 per cent versus last month, and they were “a good move showing some signs of recovery after 10 very difficult months,” said VAMA chairman’s Laurent Charpentier.

Similarly, complete-built-unit volume was up by 46 per cent versus last month as “a serious change versus the other months mainly driven by Korean sourcing,” according to Charpentier.

With this best growth ever in the year, December was expected to be stronger than initially thought.

November’s results projected on an annual basis gives a full year industry at 102,000 units, a 9 per cent increase versus October’s achievement, according to Charpentier.

VNPT links up with Japan’s NTT

A venture forged between the Vietnam Post and Telecommunications (VNPT) group and Japan ’s NTT Communication has been granted a licence to begin operation in Vietnam.

The Ministry of Information and Communications has announced that it has granted a licence to Global Data Services Joint Stock Co (GDS) allowing the company to begin offering a wide range of domestic and international telecommunications services.

GDS is a joint venture between the State-owned telecommunications giant VNPT Group and Japan ’s NTT Communication Corp.

It will specialise in providing data centres and other information and communications technology services in Vietnam , including domestic data networks, direct connections to domestic internet exchanges, overseas connections via international IP-VPN, internet access and video and tele-conferencing.

VNPT is the largest telecoms company in Vietnam, while NTT Communications is the largest telecoms corporation in the world and is ranked 29 th on the Fortune Global 500 list of 2012.

Viet Nam, Australia vow co-operation

The Australian state of New South Wales is willing to co-operate with Viet Nam in the fields of education and tourism as well as finance, the state’s prime minister, Barry O’Farrell, told a visiting Vietnamese delegation last Thursday.

The delegation was led by Vietnamese Minister of Finance Vuong Dinh Hue.

O’Farrell also reaffirmed the high likelihood of financial co-operation between Australia and Viet Nam on a national level.

During their visit, the delegation visited the Department of Treasury and Finance and the Department of Business and Innovation of the State of Victoria, as well as Swinburne University and University of New South Wales. Australia’s acting Governor General and the governor of New South Wales, Marie Bashir, also hosted a reception to welcome the Vietnamese delegation.

Hyundai to equip power plant

A contract to provide and install VND1.57 trillion worth of equipment for the Mong Duong 1 thermal power plant in northern Quang Ninh Province was signed in Ha Noi last Friday.

Under the contract between Viet Nam Machine Installation Corporation (Lilama) and the primary contractor, Hyundai Engineering & Construction Co Ltd (HDEC), Lilama will install all of the plant’s electro-mechanical equipment from December 2012, to October 2015.

The VND33.6 trillion (US$1.7 billion) power plant is funded by Viet Nam Electricity Corporation (EVN). It is one of the two facilities in the Mong Duong Electricity Centre – part of the National Electricity Development Plan for 2006-2015.

Mong Duong 1 includes two turbines that will have a combined capacity of 1,080 megawatts, generating 6.5 billion kWh hours per year.

The first and second turbines are expected to become operational in the first and third quarter of 2015, respectively.

Agricultural options eyed in Cambodia

Representatives from over 100 Cambodian and Vietnamese companies gathered in Phnom Penh to seek agricultural investment opportunities between the two countries.

Representatives from over 100 Cambodian and Vietnamese companies gathered in Phnom Penh to seek agricultural investment opportunities between the two countries.

Participants listened to reports on trade and co-operation opportunities in agriculture, forestry, aquaculture and seafood, delivered by representatives from both governments.

They discussed Viet Nam’s production capacity, supply of machinery, equipment and materials in agro-forestry and aquaculture, as well as investment between the two countries.

Cambodian Secretary of State for Trade, Mao Thora, spoke highly of the Vietnamese Ministry of Industry and Trade’s initiative to hold the “Viet Nam-Cambodia Agriculture Cooperation Exchange Forum” and the meeting on agro-forestry-aquaculture trade between both countries’ firms.

They help raise the value of two-way trade between Viet Nam and Cambodia , Thora said. It is an opportunity for both countries’ businesses to seek investment partners, and for state management agencies to get feedback on agricultural investment and co-operation challenges, added Thora.

Vietnamese Deputy Minister of Industry and Trade, Ha Cong Tuan, said apart from offering businesses the chance to increase market understanding and assess their co-operation capacity, the events are expected to help companies approach future expansion.

Viet Nam-Cambodia bilateral trade has grown by an average of 32.5 per cent over the last ten years. While in 2011, the value of trade was US$2.8 billion, representing an increase of 55 per cent on the previous year.

Viet Nam’s exports to Cambodia are primarily fertilisers, mechanical tools, seafood, vegetables and food.

Cambodian exports mainly consist of timber, rice, sliced cassava, cashew nuts and rubber latex.

Also in Phnom Penh , 37 Vietnamese firms displayed their agricultural and forestry products and seafood at an import-export fair held by the Cambodian Ministry of Trade on December 15.

The four-day expo, the seventh of its kind, drew participation from more than 200 companies representing 20 nations.

Expo provides crop quality solutions for farmers

Thousands of farmers in the Cuu Long (Mekong) Delta region benefited from an exhibition on agricultural solutions held in An Giang Province last week.

The four-day event that ended last Saturday took an in-depth look into various crops through exhibits and model fields that offered integrated crop solutions, including seed, nutrition management, irrigation, and plant protection.

The expo also marked the inauguration of the Dinh Thanh Agricultural Research Centre, the first of its kind in the region.

Assoc Prof Duong Van Chin, the centre’s director, said the expo revealed to farmers the effectiveness of the various solutions on display through the increases in yield.

Also on display was a range of farming equipment like spraying and planting machines, and exhibitors demonstrated their proper use.

“The highlight was a visit to trial fields cultivated for evaluation of new solutions and products prior to commercialisation,” Chin told Viet Nam News.

Swiss firm Syngenta displayed three integrated solution packages for rice, corn, and vegetables.

Henry Briggs, head of sales, ASEAN, at Syngenta, said the solutions were based on research into cropping as well as pest management.

“Viet Nam is the world’s leading exporter of rice but India and Thailand make higher profits because of higher prices,” he said.

“This is related to both the actual quality as well as the perception of their quality. We hope the expo will help Vietnamese rice become recognised as a higher-quality product,” he added.

Nguyen Van Tach, a farmer from Vinh Binh Village in An Giang’s Chau Thanh District who visited the expo, said many farmers had become more knowledgeable about production and pricing by participating in programmes offered by the An Giang Plant Protection Joint Stock Company.

Also attending the expo were Government officials, researchers, and provincial and agricultural authorities offices.

The expo was organised by the An Giang Plant Protection Joint Stock Company in collaboration with Syngenta, a multinational plant science company.

Vietnam, Customs Union eye stronger trade ties

Vietnam and the Customs Union of Russia, Belarus and Kazakhstan should increase the import-export of their key products to tap into the great potential of bilateral trade.

Duong Hoang Minh, an official from the Ministry of Industry and Trade (MoIT), made the suggestion at a seminar jointly held by the ministry and the European Union Multilateral Trade Assistance Project (MUTRAP) in HCM City on December 17.

The Vietnamese trade official said as Russia has joined the World Trade Organisation (WTO), the two sides can make use of the organisation’s rules to expand their market.

Bilateral trade between Vietnam and the Customs Union has grown from US$1.87 billion in 2009 to US$2.24 billion in 2011. Main imports-exports are seafood, telephones and spare parts, fruits and vegetables, garments, footwear and agricultural products, Minh added.

Discussing trade potential between Vietnam and Russia alone, Golikov Maksim, an official from the Russian Trade Representative Agency in Vietnam, said that the two governments are working to expand cooperation to new areas apart from the traditional ties in oil and mineral exploitation and banking.

At the event, MoIT experts gave their assessment on opportunities and challenges when an agreement on a free trade area between Vietnam and the union is put in place.

Coffee exports reach 1.56 million tonnes in 11 months

Coffee exports in the past 11 months reached 1.56 million tonnnes and fetched around US$3.34 billion, according to the Vietnam Customs.

They increased by 42.1 percent in volume and 37.7 percent in value compared to same period last year.

The Vietnam Coffee and Cocoa Association said coffee output in the 2012-2013 crop is forecast to decrease 30 percent, and only half has been harvested so far.

The price of coffee in the country has dropped in recent times. On December 7, it stood at VND38,200-38,300 per kilo in the central highlands but at VND39,000 per kilo in other localities. One week later, it dropped by VND300-400 per kilo.

The average export price of coffee in November alone was down 3.46 percent over October to just US$2.148 per tonnes.

Government looks to boost social housing

Social housing developers urged the Government to lower housing prices to make decent life more affordable for low-income citizens.

Specific suggestions included decreasing the minimal area of flats, providing investors with “clean” sites [where investors would not be responsible for land clearance] and proper basic infrastructure, exempting them from land-use tax and value-added tax and offering soft loans.

At present, each square meter in a social housing project costs VND10.6 million to VND13 million (US$ 504 – $620). Eligible customers are allowed to pay in installments, but many of them have returned booked houses, claiming they “cannot afford” them.

Meanwhile, social housing projects seem to have become less competitive in the last few months. In the gloomy domestic housing market, some commercial housing developers in Ha Noi have reduced housing prices and even offered to sell houses and apartments for VND10 million ($476) per square metre.

Deputy Director of the city’s Construction Department Nguyen Quoc Tuan said that it would be difficult to lower the price of social housing because social housing developers had the same input costs as commercial housing developers, except that they were exempt from land use fees.

Social housing investors were allowed to collect profits (albeit amounting to less than 10 per cent of the project value), but they also had to deal with bottlenecks in clearing sites and insufficient infrastructure.

As demand for social housing in the city would continue to grow, creating preferential policies would help attract more investors to meet the surging demand, he said.

The department recommended broadening the group eligible to apply for social housing so that households with 10sq.m per person could have access to social housing. Current regulations require social housing beneficiaries to have no more than 5sq.m per person .

In addition, beneficiaries should be able to sell their apartments after five years instead of ten years as currently regulated.

“It’s time for investors to offer housing prices more suitable to the poor,” said municipal People’s Committee vice chaiman Nguyen Van Khoi, adding that developers could invest in new technology and improve management capabilities to reduce costs.

According to representatives from the Ha Noi Construction Joint Stock Company No3, certain social housing projects have failed to progress as planned. In many cases, customers have signed contracts to buy houses or apartments but delayed paying, resulting in a high number of unsold apartments. Other companies find themselves in the same boat.

Yet deputy director of the Ha Noi Housing Development and Investment Company No 5 Nguyen Quoc Chung expressed optimism about the competitiveness of social housing despite the declining prices for commercial housing.

He said that commercially-built houses or apartments now cost VND18-20 million ($857-952) per square metre, more than social housing.

Moreover, the vice director said, the Government’s supervision of social housing projects could reassure customers. And if the minimal area specified for an apartment was reduced, social housing would be more competitive.

Lacoste wants to invest in Quang Nam

Vice President of Lacoste Corporation (France) Francois Meauze visited central Quang Nam province to look for investment opportunities. The company hopes to open a processing branch and consumer market there.

Lacoste is a French apparel company founded in 1933 that sells high-end clothing, footwear, perfume, leather goods, watches and eyewear.

More fertiliser to be imported in 2013

According to Ministry of Agriculture and Rural Development, Viet Nam will need to import roughly 2.5 million tonnes of fertilizer with a turnover of US$960 million next year.

These include around 850,000 tonnes of nitrogenous SA, 570,000 tonnes of potassium diammonium phosphate (DAP), 950,000 tonnes of potassium and 100,000 tonnes of NPK (nitrogen, phosphorus and potassium).

The country’s demand for fertiliser next year is estimated to reach 10.3 million tonnes.

Japan electronics maker opens plant

Matsumura Electronics Industry Viet Nam has opened an electronic circuit factory in the southern province of Binh Duong.

The factory was built on a 1.5 ha area in My Phuoc 3 Industrial Park, with invested capital of US$6.5 million.

The factory produces electronic circuits for use in family equipment and machinery.

These products will be exported to Japan and other Asian countries.

VNPT calls an end to pay phone service

State-owned telecommunications giant VNPT Group yesterday announced that it has decommissioned all pay phones nationwide due to a slump in demand.

VNPT began providing the service in 1997, and the number of telephone boxes around the country subsequently rose to about 11,000. However, demand for the service has gradually decreased with the growing popularity of mobile phone services.

VNPT is considering using the pay phone sites as wifi hotspots.

The country’s oldest telecom also stopped providing dial-up internet services in June of this year.-

Ministry vows ample Tet food supplies

Viet Nam is preparing goods worth VND180 trillion (US$8.572 billion) to supply the market during the Tet (Lunar New Year) holiday, said Minister of Industry and Trade Vu Huy Hoang on the programme “Dialogue with the People”, broadcast by Viet Nam Television on Sunday.

The minister predicted that consumption of necessary goods would increase by 20 per cent compared to normal months and 10-15 per cent compared to last Tet, but he remained confident that the supply would meet demand.

There might be a possible shortage of pork when Tet came near, he said, but the Government, together with the agriculture ministry had provided support to farmers and slaughterhouses to prevent such a situation.

More than 25 provinces and cities throughout the country had provided VND1.285 billion ($61.2 million) in support to enterprises to produce and reserve goods and implement the price stabilisation programme, he added.

Replying to a query on the battle against smuggling, Hoang said that the Government had taken drastic measures to prevent the illegal flow of low-quality goods into the country throughout 2012.

But Hoang also stressed that the ministry alone could not fulfill these tasks.

Border guards and the customs and market watch departments, he said, all have important roles to play in preventing smuggling and related crimes.

Quang Ninh goes green to entice Japanese investment

Northern Quang Ninh Province is trying to be a motivating force in economic development and to lead the country in green growth, said provincial Party secretary Pham Minh Chinh on Sunday.

Speaking at a meeting with Japanese experts and investors from the Koushikai group, and the International Culture Association, Chinh pledged the province would become a place of service and modern industry by 2020.

Also, it would push up marine economic development that would create a firm foundation for comprehensive development after 2020.

At the meeting, entitled “Green Growth and solutions to attract Japanese investors to Quang Ninh,” Chinh said that the province would restructure its economy and gradually reduce its dependence on natural resources, while increasing sustainable factors such as science and technology, consumption, investment, exports and human brainpower.

Viet Nam Institute of Economics deputy director Bui Quang Tuan said the province needed to speed up green growth, together with green tourism, green urban landscapes and green lifestyles.

To turn it into a reality, the province would have to widely apply many high-tech solutions in the economy and society, he said.

Japan has provided Official Development Assistance loans 13 projects worth a total of US$200 million in Quang Ninh Province. The projects focus on building infrastructure, upgrading the rural transport system, supporting healthcare and protecting the environment.

Key projects include the Cai Lan deep-water port and Bai Chay Bridge.

At the meeting, the participants also heard ideas and suggestions from Japanese international organisations which had helped push up investment in the province.

Chief representative of the Japan International Co-operation Agency in Viet Nam Motonori Tsuno pledged to provide the province with technical and financial support as well as to share experiences in green growth.

Deputy chief representative of the Japan External Trade Organisation’s Ha Noi Office Yuichi Bamba said Japanese enterprises were shifting their investment to Southeast Asia, especially Viet Nam. He said Quang Ninh needed to have stronger supporting policies for Japanese investors, along the lines established by central Da Nang City and northern Ha Nam and Bac Ninh provinces.

General secretary of the Japan Business Association in Viet Nam Masanori Ogura suggested that Quang Ninh to develop high-quality human resources and build a favourable road system, linking with big centres such as Ha Noi. It would also need to implement a one-door administrative policy to attract more Japanese investors.

The province has recently established the Quang Ninh Investment Promotion Agency, which is managed by provincial People’s Committee chairman Nguyen Van Doc. The agency will receive investment documents and create the most favourable conditions for organisations, enterprises and individuals to learn about investment opportunities and carry out projects in the province.

In addition, the province has been building a road, linking Quang Ninh with the northern port city of Hai Phong, that extends to the Ha Noi-Hai Phong highway.

Authorities were also completing a feasibility study on an airport for Van Don.

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

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