CUU LONG DELTA (VNS)— Farmers in the Cuu Long (Mekong) Delta are finding it difficult to sell high-quality and fragrant rice since traders are buying low-quality paddy, especially the IR 50404 variety.
Phan Van Hien, a farmer in Thanh Dong Commune in Kien Giang Province's Tan Hiep District, said many farmers had switched to high-quality rice for the winter-spring crop and are now stuck with their harvest.
Only a few traders buy high-grade rice, he told Sai Gon Giai Phong (Liberated Sai Gon) newspaper.
In Can Tho city's Vinh Thanh and Co Do districts, many farmers who planted fragrant jasmine rice are able to get only VND6,000 per kilogramme, down VND1,000-1,200 from a year ago.
Farmer Le Van Lam of Dong Thap Province's Tan Hong District said growing high-quality and fragrant rice requires more labour and production costs are often VND2-3 million per hectare higher than for other varieties.
Yields are also lower, he said.
Farmers who grew high-quality and fragrant varieties now face losses since prices are equal to or just VND100 higher than for low-quality rice, he said.
Nguyen Minh Nghia, deputy head of the Agriculture and Rural Development in Kien Giang's Tan Kien District, said many farmers are unhappy because they had followed the guidance provided by local agriculture agencies to grow high-quality rice.
Duong Nghia Quoc, director of Dong Thap Province's Department of Agriculture and Rural Development, said the purchase and export of rice depends on the market situation, meaning there are times when food companies do not buy low-quality rice and there are times when they have high demand for it like now.
This put farmers at a disadvantage, he said.
Agricultural experts blamed the inconsistency in demand on the market and the fact that most food companies operate on a small scale.
When companies sign a contract to export rice, they only buy rice for that contract and do not focus on creating brand names, rice cultivating zones, or long-term export plans, experts pointed out.
Therefore, farmers have to bear all the risk, they said.
Le Van Banh, head of the Cuu Long Rice Research Institute, said to resolve this problem, a long-term rice reserve policy should be drafted soon since there is now only a temporary rice reserve policy.
Meanwhile, a rice storage system that is under construction would have a capacity of four million tonnes and should be finished soon, helping increase the quantity of winter-spring rice that can be purchased for stockpiling to 2-4 million tonnes, he said.
These measures would enable the purchase of all paddy harvested by farmers, he said.
Delta farmers have harvested around 50 per cent of the more than 1.55 million hectares of winter-spring crop they planted. — VNS