by Xuan Huong
DONG THAP — Rice production in the Cuu Long (Mekong) Delta should be reorganised to achieve sustainability, experts said at a conference last Friday in the Cuu Long (Mekong) Delta Province of Dong Thap.
Organised by the Dong Thap Province People's Committee and the Thoi Bao Kinh Te Viet Nam (Viet Nam Economic Times) newspaper, the conference brought together leading technical experts, researchers from the agricultural sector, businesses and policies makers to discuss rice production and consumption measures in the Cuu Long (Mekong) Delta.
From a rice importing country, Viet Nam had made great strides to become one of the world's biggest exporters of the grain, said Nguyen Thanh Bien, deputy Minister of Industry and Trade.
Viet Nam exported more than 83.6 million tonnes of rice worth over US$25 billion in the 1989-2011 period, with exports increasing strongly in recent years, from nearly 4.69 million tonnes in 2006 to 7.1 million tonnes last year.
However, rice production in the past years had also exposed many difficulties and shortcomings, Bien said.
Rice production in general still focused a lot on output and quantity, and had not been accompanied by planning and identification of consumption markets.
Infrastructure conditions serving rice production, preservation, processing and consumption remained inadequate, he said, adding that building and promoting brand names for rice grown in Viet Nam had not enjoyed proper attention.
Linkages among farmers, scientists and businesses had formed, but not proved as effective as expected, he said.
Farmers still cultivated many rice varieties, causing difficulties in building rice brands as well as ensuring consistency in quality, speakers said.
Pham Van Du, deputy director of the Cultivation Department, said: "The persistent challenge of rice production in the Cuu Long (Mekong) Delta is that output and export growth do not translate into livelihood improvement for most rice growers."
He said there were "too many" growers and most of them were operating on a very small scale. There were also many intermediates involved in rice production and consumption.
In addition, losses during harvesting and in post-harvest processing were still a big issue, marked by a shortage of drying machines and low rate of mechanisation, Du said.
Delegates at the conference said that to solve problems and raise incomes for farmers, the Cuu Long (Mekong) Delta should implement several measures including enhancing investment in preservation and processing technology, as well as reorganising production, processing and consumption.
These would ensure that all those involved in the rice value chain would profit, they said.
Bien called for the formation of close linkages between rice producers and rice trading businesses and exporters to cut back costs involved in intermediates and increase profit for rice growers.
Businesses should invest more in building rice warehouses, mills, drying equipment and other facilities in accordance with regulations set by the Ministry of Agriculture and Rural Development to raise quality of Vietnamese export rice, he said.
Building rice brands was a very important task, especially for specialty and high-end rice, he said.
He also stressed the need for adopting a long-term marketing strategy for rice in accordance with each market's demand.
Delegates agreed at the meeting that rice production in the Cuu Long (Mekong) Delta should follow large-scale production models that would facilitate the building of rice brands.
The Cuu Long (Mekong) Delta has nearly 1.8 million ha under rice cultivation, accounting for 53 per cent of the country's paddy yield and 96 per cent of its rice exports. — VNS