COVID-19 pandemic brings crisis and opportunity: experts

Thursday, Apr 09, 2020 09:19

A mango processing line for export of Nafoods factory. — VNA/VNS Photo Danh Lam

The global COVID-19 pandemic is damaging economies the world over, but it could also be an opportunity for Vietnamese agricultural businesses.

Viet Nam News collated some comments from experts and businesses at an online conference entitled Action Programme and Solutions in COVID-19 Pandemic, held by Vietnam Association of Digital Agriculture (VIDA) recently, with the participation of nearly 200 enterprises.

President of VIDA Truong Gia Binh

Facing the global COVID-19 pandemic, businesses must identify that there is opportunity in risk. The opportunity here is on the global scale.

We forecast that many countries will face difficulties in the fight against COVID-19, bringing about challenges in production, consumption, imports and exports of food. Meanwhile, Viet Nam is currently performing well in COVID-19 disease prevention and control, creating an advantage for businesses not only in supplying agricultural products for the domestic market but also for the world.

This is also an opportunity for businesses to deploy digital technology quickly, restructuring production and applying advanced digital technologies such as agricultural digitalisation, e-commerce and origin traceability.

At this moment, if agricultural businesses do not give their best effort, it will be a big mistake for the country’s economic development. In this context, leaders play the most important role in forecasting the situation, directing and carrying out plans quickly.

Chairman of Nafoods Nguyen Manh Hung

The complicated development of the COVID-19 outbreak in Viet Nam and around the world has caused significant impacts on many sectors of the economy, including agriculture.

However, to overcome such difficulties, there are two things that need to be done. Firstly, we need to focus on the Chinese market, which is currently seen as quite stable with the COVID-19 pandemic under control. The Department of Agricultural Product Processing and Market Development in collaboration with related ministries and branches need to support businesses to extend exports into this market, especially agricultural products and fruits.

Secondly, despite the pandemic in Europe, it is necessary to focus on this market as the EU-Viet Nam free trade agreement (EVFTA) was approved by the European Council early this month and is expected to be approved by Viet Nam’s National Assembly this month.

Regarding business management, I think there are three factors to note.

The first is that business leaders must not only speak but also act, they need to convey a message to their entire staff so that they understand, share and take the initiatives in handling difficulties and promoting trade.

For my company, we have sent letters to customers from all over the world to announce the real situation, asking them to feel secure with Nafoods.

The second is to ensure the health of workers during the pandemic. At present, we strictly carry out the process of disinfection, hand washing, temperature measurement and installation of sterilisation rooms at the company. Nafoods is a ‘fortress’ and every employee is a ‘soldier’. We have to build trust for our staff.

The third one regards cash flow. Nafoods has to balance bank loans and revenue from partners. We will pay money for suppliers who need money urgently. At the same time, we will continue working with partners and customers in Europe, Switzerland and the US, who have advanced money to us, to give the best solutions in this situation.

This time is an opportunity for businesses to restructure.

I recommend the Government set aside a credit package for agricultural businesses with specific disbursement mechanism and conditions.

As for Nafoods, the company's business output in the first quarter still increased by 40 per cent year-on-year thanks to its preparation and measures to cope with the COVID-19 pandemic.

CEO of Phuc Sinh Group Phan Minh Thong

Phuc Sinh is a company specialising in exports and works directly with farmers.

Over the past 15 years, my company has developed firmly. We do not trade with intermediaries but directly work with farmers for sustainable development.

Thanks to the diversification of products, my company has exported many types of food such as pepper and cinnamon despite the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic. With our experience and long development process, we do not face difficulties when working with the banking system.

In addition, working via smartphones and laptops has been common in my company for many years so that we are not affected much by the pandemic when employees work from home.

I think that when businesses have good platforms from the past, they will not be damaged by the disease outbreak. In the first three months of the year, we still had many orders. My employees must work from one to two shifts per day.

For many businesses, this is a great time to reorganise software systems and administration, and remove unsuitable things immediately.

Chairman and CEO of Hung Nhon Group Vu Manh Hung

In the context of the complicated development of COVID-19 outbreak, it is necessary to pay special attention to ensuring the safety for workers.

My employees can work and live on the farm, isolated from outside areas. Hung Nhon's farms have a large area so that we ensure a safe distance between employees.

Hung Nhon currently produces up to 20,853 tonnes of fertiliser per month. In the next three months, the company is expected to grow by 3-5 per cent and expand production.

In this pandemic, we have two member companies, specialising in export and import, that are being affected. We have suspended the operation of the two companies and moved workers to work on the farm.

We do not lay off employees but offer KPI (Key Performance Indicator) bonus programmes so that all employees will feel assured to work here.

Nguyen Quoc Toan, head of the Ministry of Agriculture and Rural Development’s Department of Farm Product Processing and Market Development

It is a great time to digitalise agriculture, helping State management agencies to control the market’s supply and demand.

We must control production and the origin of goods to change the consumption habits of Vietnamese consumers. We would still promote online consumption even if there was no pandemic.

Vietnamese agricultural enterprises now need to ensure supply and promote e-commerce with partners. Businesses should pay much attention to the European market, which is predicted to recover in July and August. — VNS

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