Worsening Covid Crisis in Vietnam Is Hitting Food Industry Hard
(Bloomberg) -- The spiraling Covid-19 crisis in Vietnam is bearing down on the food and agriculture sector, affecting production and exports of goods to key markets including China, South Korea, Thailand and the U.S.
Exports of fruits and vegetables will sink 30% in the second half from a year earlier as southern Vietnam, home to most of the production, battles its worst outbreak of the pandemic, according to the farm ministry.
Swathes of the country’s southern region, including the commercial hub of Ho Chi Minh City, are under an extended lockdown as local virus cases soared to over 166,000 as of Friday from 4,500 cases in late June. The order, which bans residents from leaving home for most reasons, also covers the provinces that make up the Mekong Delta, popularly known as the “Rice Bowl” of Vietnam.
Crops destined for overseas markets are unattended and there’s a shortage of agricultural materials, the farm ministry said. Authorities in the Mekong Delta even enlisted the help of the military to harvest rice crops as farmers struggle to find workers due to the movement restrictions.
The harsh measures have also taken a toll on Vietnam’s seafood industry. About 70% of firms in the south have suspended operations as they couldn’t meet government requirements for staff to live on site due to higher costs. Seafood production has plunged to about 50% of pre-pandemic levels and could drop further to 30%, an industry group estimates.
The farm ministry is pushing for all agricultural workers in the south to be vaccinated in order to minimize supply disruptions. Currently, only 30%-40% of them have been inoculated. The country has administered more than 8 million doses but less than 1% of its population of 98 million is fully vaccinated.
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