Mekong Delta urged to ease hurdles at waterway checkpoints to ensure delivery of farm produce

Saturday, Aug 21, 2021 07:05

Boats anchored at Tho Son Commune in Hon Dat District in Kien Giang Province. Farmers, businesses and traders in the Cuu Long (Mekong) Delta have called for simpler inspection procedures at waterway checkpoints to speed up delivery of farm produce. — Photo

Farmers, businesses and traders in the Cuu Long (Mekong) Delta have called for simpler inspection procedures at waterway checkpoints to ensure speedier circulation of agricultural products.

Delivery of farm produce in the Mekong Delta, especially the summer-autumn rice, has been interrupted as 19 southern provinces and cities are under social distancing rules under Government Directive 16.

Several traders in Tien Giang Province said that social distancing and travel restrictions were preventing farmers from transporting their produce, disrupting supply chains and causing rice prices to fall.

The number of waterway checkpoints is too high, and the cost for COVID testing is prohibitive for many drivers, according to traders. Some drivers have quit their jobs for fear of contracting COVID-19, making it difficult for businesses to transport goods and increasing the cost of hiring drivers.

Ho Van Chiu, a rice trader in An Giang Province, said it now took up to five days for a boat to transport rice from Kien Giang to An Giang compared to a maximum of three days previously, doubling the cost.

“You now have to have a certificate of rice purchase from the point of departure to the point of rice collection, and a negative COVID test certificate,” he said.

“The cost for a rapid test is nearly VND1 million per test. Many boat owners or traders have stopped buying due to the high test cost.”

"Boat operators are required to present a negative test done within 72 hours, but some of their trips last longer than the period, which means their travel pass has expired," he said.

Boat operators are also being asked by some provincial authorities for their destination, but many of them travel around and do not know in advance where they will stop.

Le Huu Toan, deputy director of the Kien Giang Department of Agriculture and Rural Development, said it was important to reduce the number of procedures and documents to facilitate transport and consumption of agricultural products in the region.

To clear waterway checkpoints, boat owners who come to Kien Giang Province, for example, to buy agricultural products are required to present many documents, including confirmation of departure, a travel paper issued by their local authority, a negative test both at departure and at destination, and a destination confirmation.

Trang Truong Thanh, deputy director of Soc Trang Department of Transport, said the department would create favourable conditions for agricultural products to be transported smoothly in and out of the province, including on waterways.

Tran Van Lau, chairman of Soc Trang People’s Committee, said that provinces in the region should improve coordination. “Provinces need to join hands in COVID prevention, while resolving the consumption of goods such as agricultural and aquatic products in the region.”

Colonel Vo Van Chinh, head of the Waterway Police Department of the An Giang Province Police, said: “We are ready to create conditions for traders to transport agricultural products 24/7, provided that there is a negative COVID-19 certificate.”

“We are giving priority to agricultural products transported during this period.”

Nguyen Tan Nhon, deputy director of Can Tho Department of Agriculture and Rural Development, said it was necessary to set up hotlines in each of the 13 cities or provinces to promptly solve problems for traders and businesses transporting farm produce.

He said the Ministry of Transport should soon provide a “green channel” on waterways that will give priority for the transport of essential items including farm produce.

Transport disruption due to pandemic prevention regulations has meant rice traders have been unable to buy the grain, which has caused prices to fall by 24 per cent since May, according to a report from the Viet Nam Food Association. — VNS

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