Posts Tagged ‘coffee’

Argentine port blast kills one, injures others: China’s COFCO

December 28, 2017


Argentine port blast kills one, injures others: China's COFCO

BUENOS AIRES (Reuters) – An explosion at a grains terminal in Argentina owned by China’s COFCO International on Wednesday killed one employee, injured others and affected shipping activities from one of the world’s top food suppliers, the conglomerate said.

The cause of the blast is not yet known but it could have an outsized impact on the flow of food exports from Argentina as unions representing grains inspectors and crushing workers said they would go on strike on Thursday to demand better safety conditions.


Television images showed thick black smoke billowing from what COFCO described as a 52,000-square-meter grains processing plant. The facility is part of Argentina’s shipping hub of Rosario, on the Parana River in Santa Fe province.

“COFCO International can confirm that an explosion occurred at the loading area of its facilities at Puerto General San Martin in Rosario,” the Chinese state-run conglomerate said in a statement.

One employee died in the blast , the statement said, and eight others were taken to hospital for treatment.

“The cause of the incident is not yet known,” the statement said. Police, firefighters and other authorities provided no additional details.

“The affected site has been shut down,” it said, adding that COFCO had launched “a full internal investigation.” The storage and crushing facility received 27,000 tonnes of grain per day.

It has grains warehousing capacity of 295,000 tonnes and soymeal storage capacity is 105,000 tonnes.

The plant was previously owned by Dutch grain trader Nidera, which COFCO agreed to buy in 2014. This acquisition and other mergers projected COFCO into some of the world’s top grain, vegetable oil, sugar and coffee producing regions.

Argentina is the world’s top exporter of soymeal livestock feed as well as a major supplier of corn and raw soybeans. Soy is in high demand in China from a growing middle class eating meal-fed beef and pork.

Some 80 percent of Argentina’s agricultural exports are sent from Rosario. Cargo ships loaded at the hub sail down the Parana on their way to the shipping lanes of the South Atlantic.


Vietnam braces for typhoon Khanun after floods kill 72

October 16, 2017

HANOI (Reuters) – Vietnam braced for typhoon Khanun on Monday after destructive floods battered the country’s north and center last week, killing 72 people, the disaster prevention agency said.

Image may contain: outdoor and water

Farmers harvest rice on a flooded field after a heavy rainfall caused by a tropical depression in Ninh Binh province, Vietnam October 14, 2017. REUTERS/Kham

Last week’s floods were the worst in years, the government and state-run Vietnam Television said, with thousands of homes submerged. Another 200 houses collapsed and several towns remain cut off by the floodwater.

The floods also damaged more than 22,000 hectares (54,300 acres) of rice.

Vietnam is the world’s third-largest exporter of rice and the second-biggest producer of coffee, although the floods have not affected the Southeast Asian nation’s coffee belt.

Eighteen people from the hardest-hit province of Hoa Binh in the north were buried by a landslide, but only thirteen bodies have been found, Vietnam’s disaster agency said.

The government has said it is fixing dykes, dams and roads damaged by last week’s flood and is preparing for typhoon Khanun, which is expected to cause heavy rain in northern and central Vietnam from Monday.

It has also warned ships and boats to avoid the approaching typhoon.

Vietnam is prone to destructive storms and flooding due to its long coastline. A typhoon wreaked havoc across central provinces last month.

Floods have also affected nine out of 77 provinces in Thailand, Vietnam’s neighbor to the west. Three people had been killed in flooding since last Tuesday, Thailand’s disaster agency said on Monday.

The Thai capital, Bangkok, was hit by heavy rain at the weekend, with gridlocked traffic bringing parts of the city to a standstill. Bangkok has often been described as the “Venice of the East” because of its many waterways.

However, the floods prompted criticism of Bangkok’s city government, with some social media users accusing authorities of not managing water levels in canals properly.

The city government defended itself, saying it was working closely with the irrigation department. Thailand suffered its worst flood in five decades in 2011, with hundreds of people killed, industrial estates engulfed and key industries crippled.

Reporting by Mai Nguyen in HANOI; Additional reporting by Amy Sawitta Lefevre and Panarat Thepgumpanat in BANGKOK; Editing by Amy Sawitta Lefevre and Paul Tait

Indonesia to Buy $1.14 Billion Worth of Russian Jets

August 22, 2017

JAKARTA — Indonesia will buy 11 Sukhoi fighter jets worth $1.14 billion from Russia in exchange for cash and Indonesian commodities, two cabinet ministers said on Tuesday.

The Southeast Asian country has pledged to ship up to $570 million worth of commodities in addition to cash to pay for the Suhkoi SU-35 fighter jets, which are expected to be delivered in stages starting in two years.

Indonesian Trade Minister Enggartiasto Lukita said in a joint statement with Defence Minister Ryamizard Ryacudu that details of the type and volume of commodities were “still being negotiated”. Previously he had said the exports could include palm oil, tea, and coffee.

The deal is expected to be finalised soon between Indonesian state trading company PT Perusahaan Perdangangan Indonesia and Russian state conglomerate Rostec.


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Indonesian Air Power – Pilots of the Air Force’s Sukhoi SU-30MK2 aircraft walk on the tarmac after a rehearsal of the 2016 Angkasa Yudha airborne training module at Hang Nadim Airport in Batam, Riau Islands, on Oct. 3, 2016. (Antara/MN Kanwa)

Indonesia to Barter Coffee, Palm Oil, Tea And Other Agricultural Commodities for Russian Jet Fighters

August 6, 2017

Jakarta Post

No automatic alt text available.

Indonesian Air Power – Pilots of the Air Force’s Sukhoi SU-30MK2 aircraft walk on the tarmac after a rehearsal of the 2016 Angkasa Yudha airborne training module at Hang Nadim Airport in Batam, Riau Islands, on Oct. 3, 2016. (Antara/MN Kanwa)

Indonesian state-owned trading company PT Perusahaan Perdagangan and Russian state-owned company Rostec have signed a memorandum of understanding to barter Indonesian agricultural commodities for Russian jet fighters.

“The barter deal, which is under the supervision of the two governments, will involve 11 Sukhoi SU-35 jet fighters and several commodities like coffee, palm oil, tea and others,” Trade Minister Enggartiasto “Enggar” Lukita said in a statement on Friday.

Enggar, who is on an official visit to Russia from Aug. 3 to 5, expressed his hope that the agreement would be followed by other agreements in other sectors.

Read also: Indonesia working on Russian barter offer: Trade MinisterRussia currently faces economic sanctions imposed by the United States and the European Union. In response, Russia has limited imports from the US and EU and is looking to other countries for commodity imports.

“It is an opportunity we have to seize. The great potential for economic cooperation during the embargo and counter embargo goes beyond trade and investment issues. We also have the opportunity to enhance cooperation in tourism, student exchange, energy, technology, aviation, etc.,” Enggar added.

Trade between Indonesia and Russia in 2016 amounted to US$2.11 billion – with Indonesia posting a surplus of $411 million – compared to $1.9 billion in 2015. Indonesian non-oil exports to Russia grew by 8.50 percent in the last five years to a value of $1.3 billion in 2016, while Indonesian exports from January to May this year grew by 54.43 percent to $1.12 billion. (bbn)

Vietnam: Drought damage to agriculture rises above $250 mln and counting — 340,000 families impacted

April 18, 2016

Thanh Nien News

HO CHI MINH CITY – Monday, April 18, 2016

Nearly 340,000 families in Vietnam's southern and central regions are suffering from water shortage. Photo: Thien Nhan/Thanh Nien
Nearly 340,000 families in Vietnam’s southern and central regions are suffering from water shortage. Photo: Thien Nhan/Thanh Nien
Losses from the severe drought that is parching central and southern Vietnam have risen to almost US$250 million as it ravages vast plantations and seafood farms, officials said.
The number was compiled by the Central Steering Committee on Natural Disasters Prevention which surveyed the impact on agriculture in the Central Highlands, south central provinces and the Mekong Delta in the last three and a half months.
The drought, the worst in the country in 90 years, has destroyed nearly 260,000 hectares of rice and vegetables, more than 160,000 hectares of orchards and cash crops and more than 4,500 hectares of seafood farms, according to the report.
Nearly 340,000 families face a water shortage, it said.
Some 70 percent of agriculture land have dried up in the Central Highlands and south central provinces, which are the main producers of Vietnam’s prime exports of coffee and pepper.
Low water levels in the Mekong River have caused seawater to intrude 90 kilometers into the basin, the furthest recorded in history. Eleven out of 13 provinces in the delta have declared the drought a natural disaster.
The agriculture ministry has urged the government to provide more than VND1 trillion ($44.6 million) in relief to the affected areas as the situation is likely to continue until September and spread to the north central provinces as well.
Water in rivers in the affected areas can drop by more than 90 percent below average levels, it said.
Related here on Peace and Freedom:

 (Contains links to several related articles)

Photo: The drought in Vietnam has become a crisis. Photo by Cong Han for Thanh Nien News

An aerial view of the dam at the Jinghong Hydropower Station on the Lancang River, the Chinese part of the Mekong River, in Jinghong city, Xishuangbanna Dai Autonomous Prefecture, southwest China’s Yunnan province, 9 August 2013.

China’s South China Sea fishing fleet is seen just before the fishing season. China News photo

Vietnam and China Work To Avoid Conflict

May 3, 2015


By Recto MerceneMay 2, 2015

FOR so long, Vietnam has always engaged China diplomatically despite the rising tensions due to territorial disputes.

“Compared with Vietnam, China has always been, economically, a very powerful country. But it is the will and determination of our people to defend our country, sovereignty and territorial integrity that is the key to success,” Ambassador Duong Truong Trieu told the BusinessMirror when asked to explain how they deal with the issue.

He added: “We are ready to sacrifice everything for our country, for the land, for territorial integrity. It is our sovereign rights to do that.”

Duong said that despite skirmishes, their relation with China is improving, especially after the visit of General Secretary of the Communist Party of Vietnam Nguyen Phu Trong to China recently.

“We are trying to find ways and means to settle our differences. We try to explore any aspect that we can cooperate with each other for the improvement of our relations and for common development and prosperity of the two countries,” Duong said.

United as one

According to Duong, they try to avoid activities that might spark a new round of conflict while exerting effort toward a peaceful solution.  He said the use of arms will be their last resort.

Duong also clarified that they have never waged war against China over territory.

He said that like the Philippines, Vietnam is a small country as compared to China which has risen to become an economic juggernaut.

However, Duong said their country standing and speaking as one has served them in good stead.

“The government is always enjoying the support of the people. We all gather around the government. And when we stand united, we will win,” Duong said.

 Unlimited rice

Duong said bilateral trade between Manila and Hanoi reached $3 billion in 2013.   He said with a combined population of almost 200 million, the current trade has a lot of room for improvement.

“Vietnam has 90 million citizens and Philippines is now up to 100 million. With such population, we have to find what we can do next,” Duong said.

One of the main exports of Vietnam to the Philippines is rice.  The country is currently the fourth largest rice-producing country in the world after China, India and Indonesia.

“We send a lot of our experts to the Philippines and learn in the International Rice Research Institute. Our experts back home have been trained here,” Duong said.

He added that they do not subsidize but have ways and means to support farmers including a sound irrigation system and by adopting the latest technology in producing agricultural products.

Because of their developed agriculture system, Duong said Vietnam is now able to have three harvest cycles in one year as compared to the Philippines which could manage only two. Duong remembers that in 1989, while a student at The Hague, a Filipino classmate asked him how his country became a rice exporter.  He smiled at his classmate and said: “And now you are asking me the same question?”

Vietnam’s other produce are coffee, rubber, cotton, tea, pepper, soybeans, cashews, sugarcane, peanuts, bananas, fish, seafood and poultry.

“Our food is very traditional. We learn from others too. We are at the crossroads of many different cultures. We learn something from China, Japan, Thailand, but the French has a great influence in our country,” Duong said.

Local flavor

“The thing I love here is all about the people. They are very friendly and hospitable. Philippine hospitality is legendary,” Duong said.

Ambassador Duong also does not have any complaints with their dealings in the Philippines.

“It is so easy to get along with those high-ranking officials in the Philippines. All the government agencies, the mass media, and the business community are all wonderful. It feels like home,” Duong said.

 He said the Philippines and Vietnam share a long history together and have a lot of things in common.

Duong said they are looking forward to the Asean integration where he sees everyone becoming members of one big family.

“I believe we will continue to cooperate, collaborate, and stand hand-in-hand, shoulder-to-shoulder with each other. We can work together for the common good, for all countries,” Duong said.

Duong added that as an ambassador to the Philippines, he will try everything within his power to promote good relations between the two countries politically, economically and culturally.

Image Credits: Jimbo Albano


HSBC: Vietnam must diversify, reform, end corruption and improve human rights — Focus on efforts to reduce Vietnam’s dependence on China

June 17, 2014

Despite the limited short term impact of growing tensions with China, Vietnam should accelerate economic reform to improve its competitiveness and reduce its dependence on its northern neighbor, according to the Hong Kong and Shanghai Banking Corporation Limited (HSBC).


Tourist arrivals from China will likely slow in June, and normalize in July, HSBC said in a report issued last week on Vietnam’s macroeconomic situation.
Year-to-date, total tourist arrivals to Vietnam grew 26.1 percent.
Regarding FDI, worries remain over whether new investment will continue to flow in.
HSBC said that while Vietnam’s FDI stock remains large (compared to its GDP) the percentage of foreign investment as a share of total investment is about 20 percent–most of which belongs to Japanese, Korean, American and Taiwanese investors.

While registered FDI from China into Vietnam has risen in recent years, its total stock is small and Vietnam’s dependence on China is primarily a supply chain issue.


Core investors in Vietnam will stay put, HSBC predicted.


Few countries advance economically on foreign investment alone and domestic investment will have to become more efficient.


There are some signs that the Vietnamese government is making efforts to curb inefficient public investment and plans to begin focusing on economically vibrant areas of the country , HSBC said


Vietnam’s exports to China made up 11 percent of its total exports in 2012. Raw commodities such as rubber, crude, coal and fruit remain key export items. While an important export partner, Vietnam’s trade relationship with China is stronger on the import side, as much of Vietnam’s raw industrial materials come from China.

This is due to the fact that Vietnam primarily relies on cheap labor and fertile land to compete on the international market.


As a result, HSBC urged Vietnamese manufacturers to invest in localized inputs as well as improve their supply chain management to lessen dependence on China in order to meet the “yarn forward” tariff exemptions offered by the Trans-Pacific Partnership Agreement (TPP).


Specifically, the domestic garment and textile industry aims to reach a localization rate of 60 percent  by 2015.


Vietnam’s exports to China in 2013 topped $10 billion, while imports from the country reached some $30 billion, according to the Ministry of Industry and Trade.


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Ngan Anh
Thanh Nien News

Food Costs Jump to 10-Month High as Weather Hurts Beef to Wheat

April 12, 2014



By Rudy Ruitenber

World food prices rose to a 10-month high in March as crop damage from dry weather across the globe lifted the cost of everything from beef to wheat.

An index of 55 food items climbed 2.3 percent to 212.8 points from a restated 208 in February, the Rome-based United Nations’ Food & Agriculture Organization said on its website today. The gauge, at its highest since May, is still down 1 percent from a year earlier.

U.S. Gulf wheat export prices tracked by the International Grains Council jumped 12 percent last month, the biggest surge since July 2012, as crop conditions in Texas and Kansas deteriorated due to drought. Beef prices rose as dry weather affected production in Australia and the U.S., while sugar gained on drought in Brazil, the biggest producer.

Beef Cattle Business

“Last month’s increase was largely driven by unfavorable weather conditions affecting some crops and geopolitical tensions in the Black Sea region,” the FAO wrote.

Russian troops last month took control of the Crimea peninsula to the southeast of Ukraine’s main grain-export ports. About 25 percent of Kansas wheat was in poor to very poor condition as of March 30, from 21 percent a week earlier, the U.S. Department of Agriculture reported this week.

The FAO’s index of grain prices climbed 5.2 percent last month to 205.8 points, the biggest jump since July 2012. That’s still below where the indicator was in July, and 14 percent below the year-earlier level.

Best Performers

Coffee, hogs and corn are the best performers on the S&P GSCI gauge of 24 commodities this year, after sliding last year.

A gauge of sugar prices jumped 7.9 percent in March to 253.9 points, the most since July 2012. Drought in Brazil and reduced cane output in Thailand boosted the sweetener, as well as the likelihood of sugar crops being adversely affected by an El Nino weather event later this year, FAO said.

The cooking oils index advanced 3.5 percent to 204.8 points, the highest level since September 2012. Palm oil prices were lifted by limited inventories in Malaysia, an outlook for rising usage in Indonesia and the possibility of El Nino later this year, according to the FAO.

“The rise in the index mainly reflected a surge in palm oil, on continued concerns over the impact of protracted dry weather in Southeast Asia,” the FAO wrote.

Dairy costs tracked by the UN agency slipped 2.5 percent to 268.5 points on reduced buying by China and uncertainty over trade with Russia. The FAO meat price index advanced 1.5 percent to 185 points, on higher costs for beef and pork.

Bovine Prices

“The main driver was higher bovine prices, which were associated with dry weather conditions affecting production in both Australia and the U.S.,” the FAO said. “Pig meat also rose, in part on concern over the effect of porcine epidemic diarrhea virus on export supplies in the U.S.”

U.S. boxed pork carcass prices surged 57 percent in the first quarter, the most on record, according to the USDA. The country’s hog herd at the start of March was the lowest since 2007 as the piglet-killing virus was found in at least 27 states.

In a separate report, the FAO forecast world wheat production will drop 2 percent in 2014 to 702 million metric tons, 2 million tons less than predicted last month, on reduced planting in Canada, dry conditions in Australia and lower yields in Russia and Ukraine. U.S. output is forecast to climb 3.5 percent, despite dryness for winter crops, the FAO said.

The UN agency lifted its estimate for 2013 global production of wheat, coarse grains and milled rice by 6.2 million tons to a record 2.521 billion tons.

To contact the reporter on this story: Rudy Ruitenberg in Paris at

To contact the editors responsible for this story: Claudia Carpenter at Sharon Lindores

How Vietnam Became a Giant In Coffee Exports

January 25, 2014


By Chris Summers

BBC News

A coffee farmer walking at his coffee farm in the suburbs of Buon Ma Thuot city in the central highland's province of Dak Lak, Vietnam, March 2013

Think of coffee and you will probably think of Brazil, Colombia, or maybe Ethiopia. But the world’s second largest exporter today is Vietnam. How did its market share jump from 0.1% to 20% in just 30 years, and how has this rapid change affected the country?

When the Vietnam war ended in 1975 the country was on its knees, and economic policies copied from the Soviet union did nothing to help.

Collectivising agriculture proved to be a disaster, so in 1986 the Communist Party carried out a U-turn – placing a big bet, at the same time, on coffee.

Coffee production then grew by 20%-30% every year in the 1990s. The industry now employs about 2.6 million people, with beans grown on half a million smallholdings of two to three acres each.

This has helped transform the Vietnamese economy. In 1994 some 60% of Vietnamese lived under the poverty line, now less than 10% do.

Continue reading the main story

Coffee Vietnamese style

  • Ca phe da – Coffee served on a bed of ice
  • Ca phe sua da – Coffee served with condensed milk, on ice
  • Ca phe trung – like a cappuccino, except with the addition of an egg or two
  • Kopi luwak – The process of making coffee by feeding beans to civets – a type of weasel – and then roasting the excreted beans

“The Vietnamese traditionally drank tea, like the Chinese, and still do,” says Vietnam-based coffee consultant Will Frith.

Vietnamese people do drink it – sometimes with condensed milk, or in a cappuccino made with egg – but it’s mainly grown as an export crop.

Coffee was introduced to Vietnam by the French in the 19th Century and a processing plant manufacturing instant coffee was functioning by 1950.

This is how most Vietnamese coffee is consumed, and is partly why about a quarter of coffee drunk in the UK comes from Vietnam.

British consumers still drink a lot more of that than of fancy coffees, such as espressos, lattes and cappuccinos.

High-end coffee shops mainly buy Arabica coffee beans, whereas Vietnam grows the hardier Robusta bean.

Continue reading the main story

Find out more

Farmer in rain, Bolaven plateau (2003)

Watch The Coffee Trail, with reporter Simon Reeve, on BBC Two at 20:00 GMT on Sunday – or catch it later on the iPlayer

Arabica beans contain between 1% to 1.5% caffeine while Robusta has between 1.6% to 2.7% caffeine, making it taste more bitter.

There is a lot more to coffee, though, than caffeine.

“Complex flavour chemistry works to make up the flavours inherent in coffee,” says Frith.

“Caffeine is such a small percentage of total content, especially compared to other alkaloids, that it has a very minute effect on flavour.”

Some companies, like Nestle, have processing plants in Vietnam, which roast the beans and pack it.

But Thomas Copple, an economist at the International Coffee Organization in London, says most is exported as green beans and then processed elsewhere, in Germany for example.

While large numbers of Vietnamese have made a living from coffee, a few have become very rich.

Dang Nguyen Vu, aka Chairman Vu Dang Le Nguyen Vu: Next step, an international coffee shop chain

Take for example multi-millionaire Dang Le Nguyen Vu. His company, Trung Nguyen Corporation, is based in Ho Chi Minh City – formerly Saigon – but his wealth is based in the Central Highlands around Buon Ma Thuot, the country’s coffee capital.

Chairman Vu, as he is nicknamed, owns five Bentleys and 10 Ferraris and Forbes magazine assessed him to be worth $100m (£60m). That’s in a country where the average annual income is $1,300 (£790).

Continue reading the main story

Who buys Vietnam’s coffee

  • Vietnam produced 22m 60kg bags of coffee in 2012/13
  • Germany and the US imported about 2m
  • Spain, Italy and Belgium/Luxembourg imported about 1.2m
  • Japan, South Korea, Poland, France and the UK all imported in the region of 0.5m

Source: ICO

The expansion of coffee has also had downsides, however.

Agricultural activity of any kind holds hidden dangers in Vietnam, because of the huge numbers of unexploded ordnance remaining in the ground after the Vietnam War. In one province, Quang Tri, 83% of fields are thought to contain bombs.

Environmentalists also warn that catastrophe is looming. WWF estimates that 40,000 square miles of forest have been cut down since 1973, some of it for coffee farms, and experts say much of the land used for coffee cultivation is steadily being exhausted.

Forest felled for crops to be planted

Vietnamese farmers are using too much water and fertiliser, says Dr Dave D’Haeze, a Belgian soil expert.

“There’s this traditional belief that you need to do that and nobody has really been trained on how to produce coffee,” he says.

Coffee shop in Hanoi .
Hanoi has independent coffee shops – last year it got its first Starbucks

“Every farmer in Vietnam is the researcher of his own plot.”

Some people from Vietnam’s many ethnic minorities also say they have been forced off their land.

But Chairman Vu says coffee has been good for Vietnam.

He is now planning to set up an international chain of Vietnamese-style coffee shops.

“We want to bring Vietnamese coffee culture to the world. It isn’t going to be easy but in the next year we want to compete with the big brands like Starbucks,” he says.

“If we can take on and win over the US market we can conquer the whole world.”

Watch The Coffee Trail with Simon Reeve on BBC Two at 20:00 GMT on Sunday or later on the iPlayer.

In today’s Magazine

‘Economic development’ an excuse that threatens Vietnam’s environment

June 5, 2013

Vietnamese conservationists have accused that officials and businesses are using the excuse of “economic development” to pose major deforestation threat to Vietnam.

They were speaking in response to a new report by the World Wildlife Fund for Nature released in early May, which said the Greater Mekong Subregion lost nearly one third of its forest area between 1973 and 2009, during which time Cambodia lost 22 percent of its area, Laos and Myanmar 24 percent each, while Thailand and Vietnam each let 43 percent be destroyed.

A hiking trail in Cat Tien National Park in the southern province of Dong Nai, where two hydropower plants are slated for construction despite criticism from provincial authorities and UN experts. Photo courtesy of Tuoi Tre 

It said the region will lose more than one third of the remaining 98 million hectares of natural forests in the next two decades if it maintains the the current speed of destruction, Tuoi Tre reported.

Experts in Vietnam said the report is very much the truth.

Vu Ngoc Long, director of Vietnam Southern Institute of Ecology,  has spent many years researching biodiversity and economics in the Central Highlands. He said there were several factors at play in deforestation.

Besides traditional resident loggers, there are also loggers who are authorized officials, Long said. But he said “the most threatening destroyers” are owners of hydropower plants and those using the ploy of turning “poor” forests into “rich” ones made of coffee, rubber and tea plantations instead of the naturally occurring jungle.

The latest report by the Ministry of Agriculture and Rural Development last August said residents destroyed around 12,800 hectares of forests, including planted ones, in 2011, but hydropower plants and plantations destroyed almost three times that amount of land.

The agriculture ministry had earlier said that around 20,000 hectares of forest have been destroyed by 160 hydropower plants across the country between 2006 and 2012. Only 735 new hectares have been planted.

“Hydropower plants are one of the leading causes of deforestation at the present and they will be in the future,” Le Trinh, chairman of Vietnam Association for Environment Impact Assessment, said in the Tuoi Tre report.

Trinh said the figures do not even reflect hydropower deforestation precisely, as many other hectares have been lost to related construction projects, including relocation homes.

He said Tri An, a major hydropower plant in the southern province of Dong Nai, destroyed more than 20,000 hectares of forests to build its reservoir. But it has taken more than 100,000 hectares further for various reasons since opening operations in 1991.

Misleading figures

The ministry report also said that the country’s forests covered more than 13.5 million hectares in 2011, up 641,100 hectares from 2006 and thus the coverage also reportedly increased from 38 percent to 39.7 percent.

But experts said the figures also include rubber and cashew plantations, while mere forests have shrunk by nearly 816,000 hectares over the period.

A study by Chinese Academy of Sciences released in May 2011 said that planted forests are more than 90 percent less diverse than natural ones in terms of kinds of trees and their seeds.

Vo Dai Hai, deputy head of the Forestry Department at the agriculture ministry, defended the two controversial hydropower plants at Cat Tien National Park in Dong Nai at a recent conference because the area is mostly “poor forests” with more than half of the plants being bushes and bamboo.

Hai did not reply when experts then confronted him about the definition of poor and rich forests, given that a little bush is highly valuable when it comes to biodiversity.

Forest power

Forest protection officials said their lack of authority has stopped them from doing a proper job.

An official from Cat Tien National Park said six of Vietnam’s 30 national parks were under the jurisdiction of the agriculture ministry and did not receive cooperation from local rangers, while the rest were under city/provincial governments.

Nguyen Dinh Xuan, director of Lo Go-Xa Mat national park in Tay Ninh Province neighboring Ho Chi Minh City, said as a park director, he sometimes felt intimidated when talking to a district leader.