By Vinh Dao
Agriculture is the most important economic sector in Vietnam, and more than 70% of the country’s population is dependent on this sector.
The country’s pesticides market is estimated to grow at a compound annual growth rate of 6.8% in the 2017-22 period. It is estimated that half of agriculture production would be lost without using herbicides and pesticides in Vietnam.
In Vietnam, the crop protection industry has been witnessing relatively steady to high growth due to the growing demand of agricultural produce in the region. On the negative side, environmental and regulatory constraints on agrichemical usage, increasing demand for food safety and quality, and market saturation are poised to limit growth.
Statistics from the Ministry of Agriculture and Rural Development (MARD) in 2017 showed Vietnam spent U.S. $500 to $700 million annually to import raw materials and pesticides from China. Of these, 48% were herbicides (19,000 metric tons [MT]) while pesticides and insecticides accounted for 32% (16,400 MT). The rest were chemicals for growth regulators.
The volume of herbicides imported to Vietnam has increased rapidly over the past few years, from 6,500 to 9,000 mt per year from 1981-86 to 100,000 mt in 2015 and 120,000 mt in 2017.
Vietnam is facing serious challenges with respect to the amount and toxicity of the pesticides used. With hardly any domestic pesticide production, Vietnam has experienced exponential growth of the quantity and the value of imported pesticides in recent years. Increasing imports of newly formulated (and safer) pesticides has not replaced or reduced highly toxic pesticides with low efficacy. Improper use of pesticides by farmers (too high dosages, cocktailing of pesticides, inadequate pre-harvest intervals, etc.) has further contributed to the environmental and health problems.
The level of awareness and social responsibility of the users of pesticides in Vietnam is limited, causing numerous undesirable impacts on public health and the environment in recent times. Despite growth in pesticide policies and regulation, the state has been unable to regulate the pesticide market.
The main causes behind the state failure in pesticide market regulation are the governance structure (i.e., centralized decision making), corruption, information distortion, and a failing legal system. The growing number of shops and dealers trading the chemicals and loose management from local authorities and relevant agencies are also challenges.
Reducing Pesticides by 2021
The Vietnamese Ministry of Agriculture and Rural Development (MARD) has requested that the Plant Protection Department reduce the number of chemical pesticide brands registered in Vietnam by 30%, replacing them with bioproducts.
The current list of crop protection products includes 4,000 trade names. The government will not only cut these but also limit registrations of new chemical products.
The plan is to replace chemical products with more environmentally friendly crop protection products, such as biologicals, physical methods, and promoting organic farming. The government also looks to encourage and extend IPM models.
Key factors driving the rapid adoption of biologicals in Vietnam include pesticide residue problems in agro-products for local consumption, new requirements for Maximum Residue Levels on agro-products imported to the EU and U.S., and a growing number of banned pesticides.
CropLife Vietnam Stance on the Crop Protection Product Reduction:
CropLife Vietnam recognizes that the roster of crop protection products registered for use in Vietnam has simply grown too large and contains chemicals that are outdated and seldom used. Calls for a reduction in the number of pesticides registered in Vietnam are understandable, and we support MARD’s efforts in this pursuit. The industry stands ready to help the government to achieve the reduction in product registrations and deliver tangible results in improving the responsible use of crop protection products.
We support and encourage the government to ensure that crop protection tools are properly assessed through a consistent, scientifically rigorous process in line with internationally accepted methods and standards. Such assessments need to be conducted by scientific experts, and a suitable timeline should apply to allow for a thorough review.
Immediate banning or limitation decisions sets a concerning precedent that will impact companies’ willingness to sustainably invest in Vietnam’s agriculture sector. More importantly, the banning of any crop protection product once issued without consultation with scientific experts and credible scientific evidence will limit the farmer’s access to effective crop protection tools to produce more safe, affordable, and nutritious food for the community and export.
Vinh Dao is Coordinator for CropLife Vietnam.