Building agricultural hi-tech parks is vital, says Tu Minh Thien, Deputy Director of the Management Board of Ho Chi Minh City Agricultural Hi-Tech Park. He spoke with Nhan Dan (The People) newspaper about the issue.

*What is the city's plan to develop Agricultural Hi-Tech Parks in Ho Chi Minh City?

The first agricultural hi-tech park in the city was established in April 2010 in Cu Chi district, some 70 km from Ho Chi Minh City. We now plan to establish three more.

One park is adjacent to the Cu Chi park, the second is in Can Gio district and the third is Binh Chanh district.

The key objective of building these agricultural hi-tech parks is to introduce new technology to farming activities and helping farmers build trademarks for their agriculture produce.

With lessons learned from the Cu Chi agricultural hi-tech park, we'll try to build new parks suitable and practical to farmers. For example, we want the three new parks to be able to apply some of the advanced technology, including the regeneration, water saving and information technology.

We think it is important for these parks to involve detailed planning to turn themselves into sites for university students to visit and study the new technology on modern agricultural production.

In these parks we have decided to reserve large areas for investors who are interested in agricultural hi-tech development.

Of course, in these parks we'll try to develop new high quality products for farmers while developing viable production models, such as the farm-to-forks supply chain.

Last but not least, these parks will become a good training school for future workers looking to work in hi-tech agriculture.

*Can you tell us a bit more about the Cu Chi park's achievements over the past four years?

By now the park is full. It has three centres which are affiliated to the Cu Chi park and 14 investors are operating here.

Activities in the park are diverse, including the production of vegetable seeds, mushroom production and processing, bio-produce production, post harvest heat treatment, and flower production, particularly of orchids.

The park's main function is to apply new technology and introduce new plant species and then transfer technology to farmers or agriculture enterprises.

In addition, the park also serves as a venue for school and university students to come and learn about agricultural technology.

At first, the park got 152 billion VND (7 million USD) from the Ho Chi Minh City authorities and about 21 million USD from the investors. It is calculated, the investment cost per hectare in the park is about 8 billion VND (380,000 USD).

Right from the beginning, the park's management board set the objective to make the best of the investment money and use it efficiently.

As a result, in 2013 the total revenue earned by 14 enterprises operating in the park was 980 billion VND (46 million USD). Their product focused mainly on vegetable seeds, watermelon, orchids and bio-products.

Vegetable seeds produced at the park have helped the farmers increase the production yield to at least 20 percent compared with traditional seeds.

Higher yields help improve farmers' living conditions.

Furthermore, agricultural technology development helps improving product quality and meeting export standards, particularly in demanding markets.

*There are no foreign investors on the list. Does that mean the policy is not lucrative enough to attract foreign investors in these parks?

Right now there are no direct foreign investors in the park. However, some Vietnamese investors have worked closely with foreign companies in exporting their products or in technology transfer.

In my opinion, there are several reasons for the lack of foreign investors in the Cu Chi park: the land is too small, the policy setting is not very attractive and the administrative procedures are cumbersome.

*Do you think the city authorities will make policy changes to attract foreign investors to the three new parks?

The city has issued the Decision 13 giving preferential policies to support agricultural restructuring in the period between 2013 and 2015.

Principally speaking, enterprises investing in agricultural high-tech parks will be given red carpet welcome, including low land lease fees, preferential tax policies in equipment imports and human resource training.

In my own opinion, the city should pay more attention to providing a legal framework for all sectors of the economy, including for foreign companies to invest in agricultural hi-tech parks.-VNA