Minister of Industry and Trade Vu Huy Hoang on June 11 was grilled on policies to promote the selling of farm products, a burning issue that National Assembly (NA) deputies had questioned Minister of Agriculture and Rural Development Cao Duc Phat earlier the same day.

NA member Nguyen Si Cuong from Ninh Thuan province said voters were extremely concerned about how watermelons from farmers in the central region were sold to middlemen for just a few hundred VND (less than 4 US cents) per kilogramme while people in Hanoi had to pay 18,000-20,000 VND (about 0.9 US cent).

Tran Khac Tam, NA member from Soc Trang province, said purple onions from Soc Trang had been sold at cheap prices for the past three years.

“The trade ministry promised that farmers should be able to benefit from stronger cooperatives and find output markets for purple onions, but how had these activities been done in the past three years?” he said.

Minister Hoang said there had been difficulties exporting farm products due to unforeseen changes in many export markets. However, Vietnam had signed many free trade agreements recently, paving the way for more competitive export markets.

Hoang said Indonesia once imported 80,000-100,000 tonnes of purple onions from Vietnam, but recently it encouraged its own farmers to grow the onions.

He said his ministry had not forecast the situation but suggested that localities must reassess the growing plan for this product as exports would be more difficult in future.

On the watermelon situation, the official said the cost of taking watermelon to markets made the difference in prices.

In a report sent to the NA before the question-and-answer session, the trade ministry said one of the keys to sales was to spur domestic consumption. For example, the report estimated that 60 percent of this year’s lychee production of 200,000 tonnes would be sold in the domestic market and 80,000 tonnes exported.

The ministry has been working with other ministries and localities to sell to domestic consumers and build new channels to export to the US and Australia.-VNA