Economy, Agriculture, Forestry, and Fishing
collective ownership, tea production, rate of deforestation, reunification, coconuts
Vietnam has traditionally derived the bulk of its wealth from agriculture, especially from the cultivation of wet rice. During the traditional and colonial eras most farmland was privately owned and cultivated either by owners or tenants. Under Communist rule, however, the government placed farmland in the North under collective ownership. After reunification, the government attempted to collectivize all privately held farmland in the South, but local resistance and declining grain production eventually persuaded party leaders to dismantle the collective system. Instead, they granted long-term leases to farmers in return for an annual quota of grain paid to the state. Surplus production could be privately consumed or sold on the free market.
Agricultural production increased dramatically, rising 62 percent between 1985 and 1997. By far the most important crop is rice, which is farmed under wet conditions in the Red and Mekong deltas as well as in parts of central Vietnam. Most rice-growing areas can support two crops per year, and three crops per year are possible in parts of central Vietnam. Total rice production rose from about 16 million metric tons in 1985 to 31 million metric tons in 1997, while tea production rose from 28,200 to 77,000 metric tons. Other important crops are coconuts, coffee, cotton, fruits and vegetables, rubber, and sugarcane. The annual fish catch increased from 808,000 metric tons in 1985 to 1.5 million metric tons in 1997.
The growth of commercial forestry has been hindered by a lack of transportation facilities as well as by the mixture of different species of trees, which makes it uneconomical to harvest a single species. Furthermore, population pressures have increased the rate of deforestation. Since 1992 the government has banned the export of logs and some timber products in an attempt to preserve remaining forests. Most harvested roundwood is used for household fuel. Timber production, primarily teak and bamboo, has remained stagnant.
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