AN GIANG — Production efficiency at large-scale rice fields in the Mekong Delta has been lower than expected because of a lack of co-operation from rice-trading companies.
|A local farmer harvests rice at a field in the Mekong Delta province of An Giang's Tri Ton District . Lack of co-operation among rice-trading companies has been blamed for the lower than expected production efficiency of large-scale rice fields. — VNA/VNS Photo Duy Khuong
According to statistics from the Department of Crop Production, additional profit of VND2.2-2.7 million (US$105-130) per hectare was gained with the large-scale rice field programme.
However, rice traders had shown little interest in this new production model, said deputy chairman of the Viet Nam Plant Protection Association, Nguyen Tho.
"If rice trading companies do not co-operate with farmers, it will be difficult to develop more large-scale rice fields and produce rice in a sustainable way," he said.
Head of the Cuu Long Delta Rice Research Institute Le Van Banh pointed out that in order to take part in the programme, rice-trading and plant-protection companies must have a strong financial capacity to provide farmers with seeds, materials and equipment.
However, most of the participating companies were small-and medium-sized companies with limited financial means.
In addition, joining these programmes might lead to losses during the first few crops, but most companies wanted to see immediate results, Banh said.
Deputy chairman of the An Giang Province People's Committee Huynh The Nang said that the programme had offered preferential loans for companies to build warehouses and rice-husking plants, but implementation had not been very effective.
Nguyen Huu Huan, deputy head of the ministry's Plant Protection Department, also said that farmers received little guidance from agricultural experts but often planted rice seeds and sprayed pesticides under the guidance of plant-protection companies. Plant-protection companies sell pesticides, and some have been advocating the use of more pesticides.
Focus on quality
"Increasing the quality of rice is a priority to help increase profits for farmers in a sustainable way," said the principal of Tan Tao University, Prof Vo Tong Xuan.
Xuan pointed out that the price of Viet Nam's rice was always $7-20 per tonne lower than that of Thailand of the same quality, and even $220 less than that of the US, adding that standards for the certification of production processes of agricultural products (Global Gap or VietGap) must be applied in rice plantations to increase quality as well as creating a rice brand in the world market.
Xuan also suggested applying a joint-stock model in rice trading, in which farmers and traders assist each other. "The model would help protect farmers' profits when rice prices fluctuate," Xuan said.
He explained that if a farmer harvested seven tonnes, they would sell 6,700kg and the rest would be contributed to the company as stock. Then by the year end, the company's profit would be calculated and divided between farmers based on their contributions.
Co-operation among farmers, State organisations, enterprises and agricultural experts should also be enhanced to ensure the success of the programme, said deputy director of the An Giang Department of Agriculture and Rural Development Doan Ngoc Pha.
He also said that farmers should be provided with more support in terms of input materials, advanced farming techniques and post-harvest technology.
The programme was launched as a pilot scheme in An Giang Province last year, beginning with an area of 1,070ha by the state-owned An Giang Plant Protection Company.
Because farming incomes rose, the ministry decided to expand the programme.
Under the model, rice-trading and plant-protection companies ask farmers whose fields are near one another to produce the same variety of rice, using the same farming techniques and scheduled production dates.
The aim is to reduce production costs and increase profits for farmers.
The area with large-scale fields increased from 7,800ha for the 2010-11 summer-autumn crop to 19,720ha for the 2011-12 winter-spring crop, more than 4 per cent of the Crop Production Department's target. To date, 12 provinces in the Delta and six northern ones have joined the programme.
The department targets increasing the area of large-scale rice fields in the Delta to 1 million hectares in the future.
Rice trading companies would be involved in building their own large-scale rice fields to ensure output meet 30-50 per cent of export demand by 2015 and 50-80 per cent after 2015. — VNS