The Prime Minister has asked State commercial banks to reduce interest rates on loans for farmers in the livestock and fisheries sector while also giving them more time to pay back debts.
Banks have been called on to give struggling farmers in the sector up to 24 months to repay their debts in a bid to help businesses overcome a difficult period.
The banks are also asked to continue offering loans with an interest rate of 11 per cent, the lowest market interest rate at present, to help farmers invest in the raising, slaughtering and processing of cattle, poultry and tra fish.
The moves are part of the Government's measures to help farmers and agricultural enterprises to cope with difficulties such as outbreaks of disease, falling prices, lower demand and capital shortages.
Director of Dong Thap Province's Agriculture and Rural Development Department Duong Nghia Quoc said that to grow 1,000 tonnes of tra fish, farmers needed VND24 billion (US$1.15 million) – the investment was too big for them to afford alone, so they had to ask for bank loans.
However, during the last few years tra fish farming faced difficulties such as falling prices for their produce, making banks hesitate in offering loans, he said.
A farmer in the province's Vinh Thoi Commune, Ngo Van Khiem, said that in June, fish prices fell to VND18,000-19,000 ($0.9) per kilo from VND27,000-VND28,000 ($1.3) earlier this year, causing farmers huge losses.
He said that during the last few days, prices for tra fish had started to rise again, to about VND22,000 – 22,500 ($1.07) per kilo. However, farmers were still suffering a loss of about VND2,000 ($0.09) per kilo.
Meanwhile, Director General of the Sai Gon Aquaculture Product Ltd Co Mai Dang Hoa said that many enterprises were slow in processing and exporting the fish as they did not have enough money to pay farmers for their produce.
Director General of Go Dang Aquaculture Product Joint Stocks Company Nguyen Van Dao said that when enterprises could not afford to buy fish they offered farmers unreasonably low prices for their produce.
Deputy chairman of the Viet Nam Association of Seafood Exporters and Producers Duong Ngoc Minh blamed falling prices on tightened bank lending and high interest rates, which have forced farmers to sell at a loss.
The Mekong Delta region has nearly 3,900 ha of tra fish farms, a reduction of about 20 per cent compared with the same period last year, resulting in many tra fish processing factories to cut production.
Farmers in the livestock sector were also facing difficulties in accessing bank loans, said Nguyen Thanh Son, vice head of the Livestock Department under the Ministry of Agriculture and Rural Development.
According to the ministry, in the first half of this year, livestock prices continued to drop and hit the lowest point for the last two years.
Pork prices have fallen by 20 per cent from VND53,000-54,000 ($2.5) in January to VND42,000-43,000 ($2) in June, resulting in losses of at least VND6,000 – 8,000 ($0.28 – 0.38) per kilo for farmers.
Poultry prices also fell by 25-26 per cent and egg prices dropped by 38-40 per cent.
Meanwhile, the outbreak of diseases has also created problems for livestock and aquaculture farming.
Over the past week, in central Phu Yen Province's Tuy An District, white-leg shrimp died en-masse for unknown reason in 200ha of shirmp farm, causing loss of VND120 billion ($5.7 million).
Pham Thi Thuy Le, vice chairwoman of the district People's Committee, said that almost all communes in the district have dead shrimp.
An Hoa Commune, where up to 98 per cent of the total shrimp population is dead, suffered the most damage, she said.
Bui Van Du, a local shrimp farmer, said that he had to sell the rest of the one-month-old shrimp in his 1.5-ha farm to regain VND70 million (US$3,300).
"If the shrimp had not died, I would have harvested them two months later and gained a net profit of VND1 billion ($48,000)," he said.
Each kilo of shrimp now fetches VND83,000 ($4), he said.
When local shrimp farmers saw their crustaceans redden, start to float, and die overnight, they suspected the shrimp had succumbed to a virus. Le, vice chairwoman of the committee, said that the cause might be Hepatopancreatic parvovirus (HPV).
The provincial Agriculture and Rural Development Department had made a recommendation to local shrimp farmers about the virus, she said.
However, the local animal health department still did not have a treatment plan for the virus, she said.
In the short term, the district People's Committee has directed relevant and authorised agencies to spray chemicals to control the spread of the virus and minimise the loss for local shrimp farmers.