Mekong Delta urged to step up paddy farming

VietNamNet Bridge – The Ministry of Agriculture and Rural Development has called for provinces in the Mekong Delta to expand paddy farming in areas with favorable weather conditions given positive projections for outbound sales of the staple food later this year.

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Farmers sow paddy in their farm in the Mekong Delta. The Ministry of Agriculture and Rural Development has called for provinces in the Mekong Delta to expand paddy farming in areas with favorable weather conditions – Photo: Trung Chanh

The ministry wants more rice to be produced in the summer-autumn and autumn-winter crops in the country’s key rice producing region.

Huynh The Nang, chairman of the Vietnam Food Association (VFA), said at a conference on rice production in An Giang Province on June 22 that rice exports in the January-March period soared 30% year-on-year owing to the contracts signed in the previous quarter.   

But export markets have turned sour since April as the number of new commercial contracts has declined while the government-to-government rice market has been very quiet.

Nang, however, said rice shipments in the first half of this year total around 2.75 million tons, unchanged from the same period last year.

China, one of Vietnam’s major importers, has not stepped up rice purchases from Vietnam. The northern neighbor is expected to import some five million tons of rice this year with half of it from Vietnam via formal and informal channels.

For Indonesia and the Philippines, which mainly import rice from Vietnam on government-to-government contracts, Nang said they would import rice this year and make decisions before September as in 2015. In the third quarter of last year, the Philippines inked a deal to buy 450,000 tons of rice from Vietnam while Indonesia placed an order for one million tons.

“Vietnam and Thailand hold a competitive edge in the two markets,” Nang noted, adding Vietnam will have around 3.9 million tons of rice for export in the second half of this year.

Nang said rice exports in the remaining months of 2016 will not be a big concern as rice inventories are not high while the market prospects are bright.

With positive market forecasts by the VFA, Deputy Minister of Agriculture and Rural Development Le Quoc Doanh said provinces in the Mekong Delta should widen their paddy farming areas for the summer-autumn and autumn-winter crops to offset the rice output reduction in the 2015-2016 winter-spring rice crop.  

Lam Quang Thi, vice chairman of An Giang Province, said the province has plans to expand rice farming in the coming two crops compared to last year.

However, the rice farming expansion might lead drought and saltwater intrusion in the delta to worsen, particularly in the next winter-spring crop, according to experts.

Expert Nguyen Huu Thien said many dykes have been built around rice fields in the autumn-winter crop in Dong Thap Muoi (Plain of Reeds) and Long Xuyen quadrangle. As a result, the dykes prevent these two natural reservoirs in the flooding season from retaining water and cause flooding in the areas outside the dykes to worsen.

Thien said the two natural reservoirs have not stored enough water to supply to the Tien and Hau rivers in the dry season in recent years, so they cannot dilute salination in the region.

                
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