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Cbank sets 15% lending rate cap to aid firms

The interest rate board displayed by the SeABank shows that deposit rate is listed at the ceiling -- 12 percent a year

The State Bank of Vietnam (SBV) yesterday issued a new circular, imposing a 15 percent cap on lending interest rates for four preferential sectors, starting next Tuesday, May 8.

Specifically, the circular stipulates that the maximum interest rate slapped on short-term loans in Vietnamese dong will be equal to the maximum deposit interest rate as required by SBV for terms from one month and above plus 3 percentage points a year.

With the ceiling for deposit interest rate currently standing at 12 percent a year, the limit to the lending rate will be 15 percent a year, the central bank said.

Beneficiaries of the lowered rates include businesses operating in the supporting industry, exporting and agriculture sectors, and small- and medium-sized enterprises.

“The administrative solution of setting the ceiling rate has been considered thoroughly and is only applied in a particular context for a particular time,” said SBV deputy governor Nguyen Dong Tien.

“Borrowers operating in the preferential sectors are also required to meet certain conditions such as business effectiveness and repayment ability to access loans.”

Tien also told newswire VnExpress that the central bank will try its best to curb the phenomenon of breaching the ceiling rate.

“Yet it’s hard to confirm that there will be no violations,” he admitted.

In related development, the central bank yesterday delayed the ban on gold mobilization at credit instructions by 7 more months.

Earlier it was scheduled that banks are no longer allowed to accept gold deposit as of May 1.

“The extension is released given the current context of the economy and market fluctuation,” said Tien.

Ministry loosens ban on fuel import for firm

Vietnam National Shipping Lines, or Vinalines, has been given three more months to meet its fuel import quota, instead of having its license revoked right away as earlier ruled by the Ministry of Industry and Trade.

“As of the end of the second quarter, Vinalines should have imported no less than 50 percent of the quota allocated for 2012,” the ministry said.

“As of June 30, should Vinalines fail to meet the requirements, its license for importing and trading fuel will be canceled.”

Earlier, in a meeting with fuel wholesalers on March 12, Deputy Minister of Industry and Trade Nguyen Cam Tu announced that the ministry would withdraw all quotas and the rights to import fuel of Vinalines, since it had failed to meet the allocated quotas.

Vinalines was allocated to import at least 130,000 cubic meters of fuel this year, but as of the end of the first quarter, the company has yet to import anything.

It also failed to join with other wholesalers to consume fuel sourced from the Dung Quat Refinery.

Consumption stimulus needed to revive local businesses: experts

Consumption stimulus programs are needed to support ailing local manufacturers, since the VND25 trillion tax exemption/reduction program is not enough to save them, said Dr Cao Si Kiem, a member of the National Assembly and the Chairman of the Vietnam Small and Medium Enterprises (SMEs) Association.

Professor Nguyen Mai, former Deputy Minister of Planning and Investment, echoed Kiem’s opinion, adding that stimulating production will not ensure that production and business activities will be able to stably develop.

The exemptions for personal income tax (PIT) to stimulate consumption should be realized at the same time, he told Tuoi Tre.

Since local firms are facing a series of hardships, struggling to be able to manage production and business, the Finance Ministry's proposal of a 30 percent corporate income tax cut and six-month extension of value-added tax (VAT) payments, are valuable forms of support, Kiem said.

This is a more difficult time for local businesses, especially SMEs, as many have reduced production and laid off workers to tackle high inventory.

But Kiem emphasized that the impact of the tax solution is not decisive enough to save the endangered companies.

For example, the reduction of the corporate income tax will only benefit those making profits, but urgent assistance should be prepared for those operating unprofitable businesses who cannot afford to pay taxes and are falling into very difficult situation.

So in addition to tax exemptions, the state should lower interest rates, Kiem said.

Professor Nguyen Mai also shared the view that there must be solutions for real financial support for struggling businesses to effectively save them.

But the most important thing is to classify enterprises, Mai said, since every company operating in different sectors has different constraints.

If capital is only injected into real estate companies, it will not help the whole economy.

Capital should only be injected into those projects nearing completion, so that businesses can sell products and then pay the bank interests and tax to the state budget, Mai said.

According to Mai, production must be accompanied with consumption, and the solution proposed by the Ministry of Finance only stimulates production, rather than encouraging consumption.

The main difficulty facing most companies today is high inventory, so if only one side is tackled, more goods will stay unsold as people keep tightening spending.

"The biggest consumers are those with income above the average rate, including those who pay the PIT."

"Therefore, to boost production, the state should consider stimulating consumption, as a PIT cut/exemption will help increase the real income of the people."

"The rate of the PIT decrease should be assigned to state agencies for research and recommendations regarding the benefits of this policy," Mai said.

Kiem also agreed that the exemption and reduction of the VAT and PIT will have a direct impact on increasing purchasing power and increasing consumer demand, thus stimulating production.

Pham Van Huyen, former Deputy Director General Department of Taxation, said that in August 2011, the NA proposed a resolution for PIT exemption in 2011 for those with income of less than VND9 million a month from wages, salaries and business.

Meanwhile, even in the first months of 2012, taxpayers with incomes from wages and salaries are under higher pressure due to the price hikes over a range of essential commodities.

Therefore, the state increasingly needs to consider a PIT cut/exemption, as was done before.

In 2009, the total tax exemption, reduction or extension was worth more than VND20 trillion.

The State Bank of Vietnam (SBV) has held a meeting with major commercial banks to decide on the reduction of interest rates, according to newswire NHDMoney.

Accordingly, future policies of the SBV will focus on reducing the lending rate for enterprises, helping enterprises to borrow capitals more easily.

The expected interest rate cut in the coming time will see the difference of depositing and lending rates at the maximum of 3 percent.

The reduction in lending rates will also only for a number of areas and specific subjects, such as the exports, agriculture and rural development, supporting industries, and SMEs.

Conference urges setting up public investment law

The country is seemingly addicted to public investment and this ‘disease’ should be cured soon, experts said at a conference on restructuring held yesterday by the Vietnam Institute of Economics (VIE).

“Vietnam -- an economy with a US$130-billion GDP, is currently home to as many as 100 seaports, 18 coastal and 30 border gate economic zones, and more than 650 industrial clusters,” said VIE Chairman Tran Dinh Thien, citing reports conducted by state bodies.

“It’s wasteful and haphazard, no matter what standards the establishments of these facilities are based on.”

Thien went on to elaborate on the wasteful public investment by saying that over the ten-year period between 2001 and 2010, the country has seen 233 new universities and colleges open.

“This means we have built two universities every month.”

Sharing Thien’s view is Doctor Le Dang Doanh, former head of the Central Institute of Economic Management, who reiterated the reality that every locality wants to have a TV station, airport, university, and everything else that major cities have.

“Vietnam is building and expanding 22 airports, including 8 international ones, and 22 international seaports,” said Doanh.

“Moreover, except for Gia Lai Province, which has no university, each province has on average six universities and colleges,” he added.

Regarding investment effectiveness, Doanh said the state economic sector needs to spend 7.8 dong to earn 1 dong in profit.

“Paradoxically, despite the poor effectiveness, the public sector still enjoys high preferential treatment.

“From 2000 to 2009, the government’s investment in the economic sector accounted for 73 percent of the total figure, while investment in the social sector and human development dropped from 17.6 percent in 2000 to 15.2 percent in 2009.

“Public investment should prioritize the public,” he concluded.

“The state should only invest in fields in which private sector is not operating.”

Doctor Vo Dai Luoc, from the Institute of World Economics and Politics, said Vietnam is allocating too broad an authorization for localities, which are allowed to develop plans and approve investment projects.

“Consequently, it seems like Vietnam has 63 different economies from its 63 cities and provinces,” said Luoc.

“This has resulted in wasteful, haphazard, and above all else, ineffective investment.”

He urged Vietnam to develop a law on public investment, as per international customs.

“We should consult the law on investment of Singapore and South Korea,” he suggested.

Meanwhile, Doctor Vu Dinh Anh said the country has borrowed both domestic and foreign loans for public investment, and its public debt has thus gradually increased.

“Around 12 – 15 percent of the total state budget disbursement is required to clear debts,” he said.

For his part, Vu Tuan Anh from VIE suggested that the government practice thrift in public spending to balance the state budget.

“Annual public spending and investment planning and projects should be made public,” he said.

According to figures from the Ministry of Finance, as of the end of last year, the country’s public debt stood at 54.6 percent GDP, or $50 billion.

The figure is expected to rise to 58.4 percent this year, and 65 percent at the end of 2015. Meanwhile, the International Monetary Fund forecasted that Vietnam’s public debt will be around $86.2 billion in 2015.

Undersea cable to power Phu Quoc

Electricity of Viet Nam Corporation's Southern Power Corp (EVN SPC) and Italy's Prysmian Powerlink SRL Group signed an engineering, procurement and construction contract for an undersea cable system to supply power to Phu Quoc Island on Thursday.

Prysmian will design, supply, and install the nearly 58km submarine line between Ha Tien town and Phu Quoc at a cost of over VND1.97 trillion (US$94.5). The total cost of the 110KV cable system and infrastructure like sub-stations, whose installation will take 18 months to complete, will be VND2.34 ($112.3 million).

It will have a transmission capacity of 131 MVA.

The work will be funded by a loan from the World Bank and EVN SPC's own resources.

Prysmian said the cable would be the longest of its kind in Southeast Asia.

Pham Ngoc Le, deputy general director of EVN SPC, said the project is aimed at ensuring stable power supply to Phu Quoc and promoting economic development and security.

It would also turn Phu Quoc into a special administrative and economic zone affiliated to the Government and tourism centre under a master plan approved in 2011, he said.

Diesel generators now supply much of the power to the island.

Pham Vu Hong, deputy chairman of the Kien Giang People's Committee, said the Phu Quoc distribution network would be linked to the national grid by late 2013 through the Ha Tien-Phu Quoc undersea cable.

Double export turnover with Laos targeted

Viet Nam and Laos want to double their export turnover by 2015 from $1 billion now, says visiting Laos Minister of Trade and Industry Dr Nam Viyaketh.

Viyaketh told Deputy Prime Minister Nguyen Xuan Phuc yesterday an objective of his visit was to further promote trade relations and investment co-operation with Viet Nam.

Vietnamese enterprise investment in Laos was appreciated, he said, particularly that of the Hoang Anh Gia Lai Group.

"They have contributed considerably to Laos's economic growth while carrying out many activities of social significance, including poverty reduction," Viyaketh said.

Deputy Prime Minister Phuc said Viet Nam had always held in high regard its special friendship and comprehensive co-operation with Laos.

"The Vietnamese Government will facilitate conditions for Vietnamese enterprises to operate in Laos and Laos enterprises to operate in Viet Nam," Phuc said.

This year is being observed as the Year of Special Friendship and Solidarity between Viet Nam and Laos.

It marks the 50th anniversary of diplomatic relations between the two nations and the 35th anniversary of the signing of the Viet Nam-Laos Friendship and Co-operation Treaty.

Borrowers to gain better access to foreign capital

Credit institutions, including foreign bank branches, can now make loans in foreign currency to customers residing in the country, the State Bank of Viet Nam has ruled.

Under Decision No 857/QD issued by the Sate Bank of Viet Nam on Wednesday, credit institutions authorised to engage in foreign exchange may make short-term loans in foreign currency to resident customers for use in business and export operations. Credit institutions also must evaluate and assure that production plans are feasible and that borrowers fully satisfy conditions for borrowing as required by laws. Borrowers must prove that they are able to make repayment from their own foreign currency revenue streams.

The decision remains in effect until the end of this year.

The State Bank has also asked all resident borrowers to sell loans from foreign institutions to domestic banks at spot foreign exchange rates, unless such borrowers are allowed by law to make payments in foreign currency.

Provinces urged to support small firms

Representative from provinces gathered at a conference here yesterday to discuss was to support small- and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) at the local level in the context of the global economic downturn.

Local policymakers were best-positioned to deeply understand their own development targets and needs on which to base suitable policies, said Deputy Minister of Planning and Investment Dang Huy Dong.

"So far, agencies responsible for supporting SMEs have not been effective in assisting these businesses, while central agencies have only focused on developing policies," Dong said.

Any additional support to SMEs needed to be evaluated to ensure that the capital would not merely flow back into the hands of larger firms, he added.

Sharing experiences in supporting SMEs, Miki Miyamoto, an expert from the Japan International Co-operation Agency (JICA), said SMEs accounted for 99.7 per cent of total businesses in Japan, employed 70 per cent of workers and contributed half of the country's added value.

Miyamoto said SMEs were a key factor of the economy, particularly in services, retail and construction, playing key roles in serving local economies and providing jobs. He said Japan had encouraged enterprises to improve their management to adapt to economic and social changes, and had established an SME support network to help these businesses.

Nguyen Hoang Minh, deputy director of the HCM City Department of Planning and Investment, said the number of SMEs in the city accounted for 26 per cent of the country's total.

"The city has established industrial zones, industrial clusters and high-tech zones for businesses and established a financial insurance fund to support SMEs," Minh said.

In addition, the city has accelerated administrative reforms, supporting SMEs in trade promotion efforts, providing market information, developing e-commerce and transitioning out of an agricultural economy. It has also targeted providing long-term interest-rate relief for businesses for up to seven years.

Luong Quoc Thai, deputy director of Vinh Phuc Department of Planning and Investment Department, said his province had established or planned 24 industrial zones and trade villages. It also established a credit guarantee fund for SMEs back in 2007 with capital of VND78 billion (US$3.71 million ).

Dong Thi Bich Chinh, deputy director of the central city of Da Nang's Department of Planning and Investment, said support to SMEs was only a legal framework but not a reality. Several businesses were seeing strong development, however, due to natural resources exploitation and foreign direct investment. Chinh said the Government needed to establish a national agency to support businesses.

The head of the ministry's Business Development Department, Ho Sy Hung, said they would complete the legal framework to support SMEs, assisting them to improve competitiveness and access to financial resources. Accordingly, it would establish an SMEs Development Fund and include policies to encourage commercial banks to lengthen and improve lending terms for SMEs, he said.

Some localities participating in the event voiced the need for more market information and urged the creation of an information network and a national trade promotion programme for SMEs. A survey by the Viet Nam Chamber of Commerce and Industry last year found that only about one-third of SMEs nationwide were able to access bank loans, and much of this was through Government preferential policies giving banks incentives to extend credit.

The Prime Minister has also issued a decision establishing loan guarantee funds for SMEs, but the survey of 2,000 businesses showed that nearly 80 per cent of businesses remained unfamiliar with these programmes. The country now has only 13 such funds in 63 cities and provinces, and many were ineffective due to limited local funding.

BIDV credit programme to spur property market

The Bank for Investment and Development of Viet Nam (BIDV) plans to launch a credit package worth VND4 trillion (US$192.3 million) this month to help prop up the ailing real estate market, the bank's chairman Tran Bac Ha has told the media.

"The biggest difficulty for the property market now is weak demand, thus, we have drawn up this package to stimulate demand on the market," he said.

Ha said the bank would establish a linkage with investors, contractors and building material suppliers to implement the package.

Individuals or households buying a house at projects financed by the BIDV could borrow a money amount worth up to 85 per cent of the house's value with a borrowing term of up to 15 years. They would enjoy a preferential interest rate of 16 per cent a year.

They would also be assisted by the bank to approach investors to select suitable apartments in Ha Noi and HCM City, and given interior decoration special offers.

Investors, tenderers and material suppliers would be financed with amounts worth up to 90 per cent of their contract values within a year.

Ha said recent State Bank of Viet Nam's moves to reduce mobilising rates to 12 per cent per year and encourage lending in more property-related areas had made property firms feel more secure.

However, he said, a sluggish market now needed a strong remedy to survive and recover.

Dang Hoang Vu, director of the Thanh Binh property and trade company, said it was necessary that many banks join efforts at the same time, with similar support packages, to prop up the market.

"Enterprises and banks are on the same boat, we won't be able to exist if firms all fail," Ha told a recent meeting with the HCM City Real Estate Association, adding that banks were also fatigued with current economic conditions.

"No matter how many support policies there may be, the best way is that property firms must save themselves first," he said.

He suggested property investors be brave to restructure their companies, transfer projects that they could not continue and accept a shrink in profits to cut prices.

Sai Gon Gia Dinh Real Estate general director Nguyen Phung Thieu told Thoi bao Ngan hang (Banking Times) that market liquidity was hindered by property prices that were now too high for the majority of people.

Nguyen Van Duc, the deputy director of Dat Lanh Real Estate Company said firms should promptly apply new [construction] technologies so as to minimise costs, reduce prices and find buyers for their products.

HCM City Real Estate Association Chairman Le Hoang Chau reportedly said the property market would continue to see utmost difficulties this year, with its output depending heavily on puzzles related to capital, liquidity and unsalable apartments.

He said sky-rocketing lending rates, one of biggest challenges to firms last year, should be soon reduced to 14-16 per cent per year.

A roadmap to cut the rates down to 11-12 per cent was needed to bring the property market as well as the economy back to normal and stable development, he said.

Building materials industry flounders

The Ministry of Construction has been assisting the local building material market in dealing with low consumption and large stockpiles, a ministry official has said.

Le Van Toi, head of the Building Material Department, said to solve difficulties related to consumption, the ministry had drawn up many programmes to consume cement and other building materials, including one to build concrete roads and others on promoting construction of social houses.

At present, building material stockpiles stood at 2.95 million tonnes, Toi said.

The ministry had also proposed local construction enterprises to promote the use of domestic building materials, he said.

Additionally, the Government should have policies on reducing lending interest rates to 12 per cent per year and waiving value-added tax for building material production from six months to one year, he added. Meanwhile, enterprises should come up with solutions to overcome the difficult period, he noted.

At present, Nguyen Van Sinh, deputy director of Viglacera Corporation, said the company had given priority to making synchronous building material products for building social houses and medium-class and luxury apartments.

The corporation has promoted the reduction of production costs, expanded distribution systems and increased exports, he said.

According to the General Statistics Office, the price index of building materials in April reducd 0.44 per cent against last moth, but local purchasing power was still weak.

Since early this year, Sinh said, his company's consumption of building materials reached 65 per cent of its production capacity because of impacts from tightening policies on credit and public investment and low demand on building after the Tet holidays.

High input costs, including coal prices and high lending interest rates, had pushed Viglacera's production costs up, Sinh noted.

Therefore, since after the Tet holidays, subsidiaries of Viglacera had stopped parts of production or full production to reduce output, but stockpiles remained high, he said.

Tran Thi Van, owner of a building materials shop in Ha Noi said since December 2011, consumption of building material dropped by 40 per cent against the previous period. So, her shop had reduced purchases of new products to decrease stockpiles. Van hoped the Government would help reduce taxes and promote trade to increase consumption.

Work begins on housing for workers

Work starts today on housing for workers at the Tien Son industrial zone in the northern province of Bac Ninh.

With total investment capital of VND168 billion (US$8 million), the project is invested in by the Viglacera Corporation involved in the field of building materials such as granite and ceramic tiles, terracotta bricks and roofing tiles.

The housing project will cover an area of 1.05ha and will accommodate 2,500 workers.

Urban project on drawing board

The Project Management Unit of Chan May-Lang Co urban area has announced a detailed planning project for Chan May urban area in Phu Loc District of central Thua Thien-Hue Province.

Under the planning, the project will cover an area of 3,440 ha and be divided into two areas.It is expected that the urban area will accommodate 130,000 people by 2025.

Furama hands over resort project

The Furama Resort Da Nang announced its official takeover of the management and operations for the first 31 Furama Villas.

The luxury Villa complex, owned by Ariyana Real Estate, is part of the first phase of the Furama Villas project, occupying 11ha of a total 28ha area set out for development. Phase One also includes a future 100 villas to open in the last quarter of 2012-13. The project includes villas of two to four bedrooms, each with a private pool, modern and high quality fittings and furniture and natural decoration details consisting of marble and traditional wood.

Ecopark wins prestigious award

Ecopark, the largest urban township development in the north, won a prestigious award at the Asia Pacific Property Awards 2012.

The Ecopark was given the prize for best complex development project in Viet Nam. One month ago, it also received the Viet Nam Green Award 2012 from the Viet Nam Architects' Association.

The award recognised Ecopark's efforts to incorporate internationally good design principles and practices for the largest urban township in the north of Viet Nam.

The Asia Pacific Property Awards is part of the long established International Property Awards recognising the best practices in the real estate sector across the world. The judging panel of the awards is chaired by Lord Bates of Langbaurgh and consists of more than 60 professionals whose collective knowledge of the property industry is unsurpassed.-

Ban of ceramic tile imports sought

The Viet Nam Building Ceramic Association (VIBCA) has asked the Ministries of Finance, Trade and Industry and the General Department of Customs not to allow imports of unfinished ceramic and granite tiles from China.

Many businesses are now importing unfinished ceramic tiles, especially unfinished granite tiles from China, to continue polishing for domestic consumption or enjoy C/O from Viet Nam so as to export to other countries.

Most importers have made customer declarations that unfinished ceramic tiles are semi-finished goods or raw materials for production to enjoy tax incentives. Viet Nam currently has an annual production of nearly 400 million sq.m of ceramic tiles of all kinds. The smuggling and trade fraud in ceramic tiles from China has been increasing, particularly with China being the world's largest producer with a productivity of nearly 10 billion sq.m annually, impacting the existence and development of locally-made ceramic tiles, the association reports.

Hub Culture project provides benefits

The Hub Culture pop-up project yesterday announced its top 10 business ideas after a competition held among young entrepreneurs.

Hub Culture project brought a pavilion to HCM City from May 4 to 10 to help turn business ideas, particularly Vietnamese young people, into feasible projects, for receiving support and advice from global and domestic leading experts. Young Vietnamese who plan business start-ups are gaining access and insight from business leaders via onsite workshops, live webcasts from outside experts to share skills during an action packed week. These business groups will have daily access to experts to refine and develop their business plans and ideas in an effort to help accelerate the pace of innovation and development for great new ideas in Viet Nam.-

Insurer launches education plan

AIA (Viet Nam) Life Insurance has officially launched a new product called An Phuc Thanh Tai. This is a "3 in 1" comprehensive education plan especially designed for customers who want to accomplish an education plan for their children and, at the same time, protect their whole family against unexpected circumstances in life.

To that end, the new product offers a "3 in 1" solution with coupons to meet financial needs at each stage of a child's education plan and financial protection against risks for parents – the breadwinners in the family. In addition, this product provides financial protection for the child against risks of accidents and illness.

Thai group invests more in plastics

Thailand's SCG Chemicals Group said on Tuesday that it was expanding its investment in Viet Nam's plastics industry.

The Thai Plastic and Chemicals Company, a subsidiary of SCG, acquired 9.8 million shares (22.6 per cent) of the Tien Phong Plastics Joint Stock Company (JSC) and 5.8 million shares (16.7 per cent) of the Binh Minh Plastics JSC, both of which are leading manufacturers of PVC pipes in Viet Nam. This extra injection of investment into Viet Nam by SCG now raises the group's total investment in Viet Nam to US$370 million.-

Ministry sacks Sabeco bosses

Saigon Beer Alcohol and Beverage Corp board chairman Nguyen Ba Thi and general director Nguyen Quang Minh have been sacked.

They no longer manage the State-owned stake in the company, following a Ministry of Industry and Trade decision. The ministry recommended management board members Phan Dang Tuat and Pham Thi Hong Hanh be employed chairman and general director respectively.

A source from the corporation said on Thursday the two appointments had since been ratified. Last year, the corporation was forecast to earn VND22.13 trillion (more than US$1 billion) in revenue, to mark a year-on-year increase of 13 per cent. However, its pre-tax profit reached only VND2.74 trillion ($131 million), equivalent to 84 per cent of the previous year's figure. The company this year aims to post a revenue of VND24.3 trillion (over $1.15 billion), up 10 per cent against the same period last year and record a pre-tax profit of VND2.46 trillion ($117 million).-

Farmers take health risks to boost income

Many residents in northern Thai Binh Province have found spraying pesticide on local rice fields a way of getting additional income, regardless of protective working clothes shortage and health risks.

In Vu Thu, Dong Hung, Hung Ha and Kien Xuong districts, many people, mostly women, carry plastic pesticide pots to apply the substance to the crop. The substance dust from sprayers spread and quickly cover the air. Everyone wears only palm-leaf conical hats, clothing masks and worn-out gloves.

Tran Thi My in Vu Thu District's Viet Thuan Commune said she had been hired to spray pesticide for villagers for three years. She was paid between VND70,000-100,000 (US$3.5-5) per sao (360 sq.m) for each hour of work. On busy days, she could earn about VND300,000 ($15).

The job can bring income for local residents, mostly living in poverty, but it caused skin diseases and other health problems.

Pham Thi Lieu in Hung Ha District's Diep Nong Commune said her hands were stiff, painful and hard to move after a while of spraying the substance. Red rashes were seen on her hands.

"I have gone to the doctor many times, but it's useless," she said.

Ha Thi Dung, aged 52, in Kien Xuong District's Binh Dinh Commune said she fell ill while spraying the chemical three years ago. The whole chemical pot poured onto her body. This has caused itchy rashes for her since then.

Most said they were reluctant to take the job to earn their living. They usually took lemonade to the fields to first-aid themselves when needed, but few got safe working clothes as required.

Dr Nguyen Thi Thuy, deputy director of the provincial General Hospital, said the hospital usually received many patients poisoned by the pesticide this time of the year as they accidentally poured the chemical onto their bodies.

Most were hospitalised with skin diseases, respiratory and digestive problems, vomiting and physical depression, Thuy said.

"They know little about the poison levels of the chemical and seldom wear safe working clothes," she said.

Thuy said the hospital always reminded patients of wearing labour clothes when they were at work and disseminated about the damages of the chemical.

"A clothing mask or a pair of clothing gloves makes no effect on preventing the poisonous substance from absorbing into workers' bodies and causing health damage," she said.

Thai Binh is among five provinces growing rice in the Song Hong (Red River) Delta. The total area of rice fields is 86,120 ha, bringing the output to over one million tonnes per year.

Delta province adds more land to farm project

The large-field farming programme under which many rice farmers combine their holdings to farm giant parcels of land has seen the addition of six such fields in Long An Province this season.

It takes the number of fields in the Mekong province to 14 with a total area of 5,400 ha.

According to the Long An Department of Agriculture and Rural Development, eight of the fields are located in Vinh Hung District, three in Moc Hoa, two in Tan Hung, and one in Tan Thanh.

All the districts are in the Plain of Reeds, the most fertile region in the province, enriched by flood-borne alluvium around the year.

Long An has 219,770ha under the 2012 summer-autumn rice crop of which 37,150ha have been planted, mostly in the Plain of Reeds.

In the previous crop – the winter-spring crop – it reaped a harvest of nearly 1.57 million tonnes of paddy at an average of six tonnes per ha.

More than 880 families joined the large-field farming programme for that crop, cultivating more than 2,000 ha in the Plain of Reeds and harvesting an imposing seven tonnes per ha.

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