Vietnam offers subsidized loans to fish farmers

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The Vietnamese government has announced it will subsidize two-year interest-free loans to fish farming businesses seeking to upgrade their farming and processing technology.

In the third year, the government has agreed to cover 50 percent of interest payments.

The fishery sector draws large sums of foreign currencies into Vietnam; it is one of the country's top export earners along with crude oil, textiles and footwear.

The move is aimed at helping fish farmers and processing firms access loans and expand their production capacity, government officials said last week.

Subsidies were also granted to rice, coffee, corn, sugar cane and tea producers.

In order to qualify for the subsidies, these businesses must order at least 60 percent of their new equipment from local firms.

The Vietnam Bank for Agriculture and Rural Development has been assigned by the government to grant loans to businesses in the fishery and agriculture sectors.

The bank currently charges 11 percent on loans in three to 24 month terms.

Last year the government launched a stimulus package that included 4 percent interest subsidies to help businesses cope with the impact of the global economic slowdown.

At that time, commercial banks were offering loans at around 10 to 12 percent interest, last year.

The subsidies fell to 2 percent for businesses pursuing technology upgrades in December 2009 and ended in March.

Vietnam produced 3.8 million tons of sea products (including 2.87 million tons of fish) in the first nine months of this year, according to the General Statistics Office.

The office said it exported US$3.4 billion worth of seafood products so far this year - representing a 13 percent year-on-year increase.

The Vietnam Association of Seafood Exporters and Processors said a weak fish crop and the rising cost of fish feed have hurt local businesses. The association added that many processing factories are not running at full capacity because many farming pools have gone out of business.

The association said Vietnamese fish farming and processing technology is underdeveloped, creating heavy losses in the post-harvest season.

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