Vietnamese farmers have largely failed to benefit from their bumper crops for a long time, leading agriculture expert and South Vietnam University rector Vo Tong Xuan told Tuoi tre (Youth) newspaper.

Q: In your opinion, why can't the farmers sell their agricultural produce following their bumper crops?

A There are various reasons leading to the problem. First of all, I should say, the Ministry of Agriculture and Rural Development and the Ministry of Industry and Trade have failed to provide them with accurate forecast on the market demand before they start cultivating the crops.

On the other hand, during their visits, government officials often encourage the farmers to increase their rice production or fish farming, but forget to inform them about the buyers of their products.

Meanwhile, the producers or farmers do not appear to care much about what is happening in the market or about the market demands for their products.

What is even worse is that sometimes, the traders approach the farmers and deposit some money as their assurance to buy the farmers' produce during the harvest season. However, the traders themselves are not aware of the trend in the future market.

This is a real story of the agricultural sector in our country. During the harvest season, when the traders realise that they have made wrong assessments about the market, they simply flee away and accept the loss of their deposited money.

Q: In the past, if agro products could not be sold in the market, responsible people in the agriculture sector often shifted the blame on the farmers. They would say the farmers did not follow their advice. Do you think that's fair to the farmers?

A: Do you think lame ducks are willing to accept their weakness and vice versa? I should say the planning work of our primary industry, which is agriculture, is not based on scientific research, the market demand, or the adaptability of the environment.

Following the advice of experts may help the farmers sell their products during the harvest season. Yet, sometimes, the farmers would reap higher profits from planting "hot" crops in the market instead of following the agriculture extension workers' advice.

Q: What is the role of the agricultural sector in sharing the market outlook with the farmers?

A: I have to concede that in the past few years, the government (the Ministry of Agriculture and Rural Development) has done a poor job in guiding the farmers regarding their production development.

The farmers were left to make their own decisions. The ministry has failed to adopt a long term and workable strategy for the sector.

I have a feeling that they have placed themselves in a passive position. For instance, when the farmers could not sell their rice grains after harvest, the ministry then asked the government/ banks to lend the enterprises money with free or low-interest rate so that they could buy rice grains from the farmers to temporarily fill their the stores.

In a nut shell, we need a strong conductor in the agriculture sector, which is the role of the Ministry of Agriculture and Rural Development. It is high time for us to organise production chains in rice grain, fishery, and fruits, among others. Of course, in such production chains we have to apply the same procedure, for instance, Good Agricultural Practices (GAP). Of course, such production chains need the government's support through policies or preferential treatments in certain stages of the production chains.

However, what is most important is that the two ministries - the Ministry of Agriculture and the Ministry of Industry and Trade - should restructure their corporations into small companies with competent staff who are well-versed in foreign languages and professional skills.

For the immediate future, just focus on the Chinese and African markets. That is the way we should venture ahead.-VNA