Agricultural restructuring is essential to Vietnam 's economic and social development, a conference heard on March 6.

Speaking at the event, based on the national agricultural outlook for this year, Dr Nguyen Do Anh Tuan, director of the Centre for Agricultural Policy, said that although the sector experienced growth of 4 percent last year, market movements are forecast to be complicated this year.

Due to financial difficulties, the sector will face decreased demand from import countries. Moreover, Vietnam will also have to compete with an increased number of producers such as Ethiopia (coffee), South Africa (rice) and Myanmar (aquaculture products).

Epidemics such as foot-and-mouth disease, blue eared pig disease and bird flu, will also continue threatening productivity, Tuan said.

Dang Kim Son, general director of the Institute of Policy and Strategy for Agriculture and Rural Development, said that key commodities such as rice and coffee are still experiencing unstable supply due to farmers focusing on short-term markets alone, suffering big losses as a result.

"This situation must improve in order to maintain agricultural growth and sustainable development," he said.

Representatives at the conference agreed that restructuring the agricultural sector will be a good solution to the issue.

Alongside that, a linkage between companies and farmers, the promotion of public private partnerships, a connection between associations to assure quality standards and increased storage facilities are considered integral to the process.

On March 7, experts from domestic and international research organisations and relevant authorities will continue discussing the outlook of rice and coffee exports, farmer welfare improvements and the policy for agricultural value chain development.

Vietnam 's agriculture sector forms a large part of the national economy with a growth rate of 4 percent and earnings of 25 billion USD, accounting for 22 percent of total export turnover. Agriculture was the only sector to achieve a net export surplus of 9 billion USD last year.

The two-day conference was held via collaboration between the Institute of Policy and Strategy and Rural Development and the Vietnam Chamber of Commerce and Industry.-VNA