|Farmers grow Japanese sweet potatoes in southern Vinh Long Province. Many farmers in Mekong Delta provinces are renting out their rice fields for the cultivation of Japanese sweet potato, affecting zoning plans for rice cultivation. — VNS File Photo
CUU LONG DELTA — Many farmers in the Cuu Long (Mekong) Delta have leased out their rice fields for the cultivation of Japanese sweet potato, affecting zoning plans for rice cultivation.
Paddy fields in Vinh Long, Dong Thap, and Kien Giang Provinces and Can Tho City are now leased at VND40-60 million (US$1,900-2,800) per ha because the tuber is now bought at high prices by Chinese traders.
Nguyen Ngoc Loi, a farmer in Ngai Tu Commune in Vinh Long Province's Tam Binh District, said she has rented out her family's 3,500sq.m of land to a farmer in Binh Minh District for three years for planting Japanese sweet potato.
She got VND4 million per 1,000sq.m, equal to the income from rice farming, which she said entails hard work.
Nguyen Van Phuc, another local farmer, has leased out his 2,500sq.m of rice fields because his neighbours had done so.
It is difficult to plant rice among sweet potato fields, Phu said.
Le Trung Toan, deputy chairman of the Ngai Tu People's Committee, said usually only 1ha of land would be under sweet potato, but has increased to 30ha this year with the leasing.
Local authorities encourage farmers to grow two rice crops and one cash crop instead of three rice crops a year, but do not encourage them to grow only sweet potato.
They have warned farmers not to expand the area under sweet potato since it would cause prices to decline, causing them losses.
In Can Tho, farmers from other delta provinces, mostly Vinh Long and Dong Thap, have leased paddy fields in Co Do District to plant Japanese sweet potato.
They have taken up 600ha of paddy fields, according to the local Agriculture and Rural Development Bureau.
Nguyen Van Quet, chairman of the Thoi Hung Commune People's Committee in Co Do, said in the last two years his commune has attracted many farmers from elsewhere who lease paddy fields to plant sweet potato.
This is not a good sign because it would hit the output of commercial rice and the commune's rice cultivation zoning plans, he warned. — VNS