KIEN GIANG — Farmers did not benefit from a programme to buy rice to keep in reserve, the Ministry of Agriculture and Rural Development has said.
Speaking at a conference also attended by Mekong Delta farmers to review the programme in Kien Giang Province on Tuesday, , ministry officials said food companies were buying from traders instead of directly from farmers.
The Government ordered the Viet Nam Food Association (VFA) to buy 500,000 to 1 million tonnes of rice for the reserve while ensuring farmers earned a 30 per cent profit in the process.
VFA's member companies have completed their purchases, enabling stabilisation of rice prices.
But most farmers had sold their paddy to traders (at low prices) before the programme began, and therefore could not benefit from the higher prices the companies paid, the ministry said.
The companies got interest-free loans for buying the grain. But the VFA rejected the ministry's contention. Truong Thanh Phong, VFA chairman, said: "Rice-growers have also benefited from the purchase."
Deputy agriculture minister Bui Ba Bong said to ensure profits for farmers the Government has ordered his ministry and the VFA to create models for the rice reserve purchase programme.
Under a new plan, farmers will store paddy in their houses and at co-operatives' warehouses following harvest, and those who have more than five tonnes will get interest-free bank loans to plant the next crop.
Firms who sign contracts to buy paddy directly from farmers for the reserve will also get these loans.
Representatives of the people's committees of Can Tho City and Kien Giang and some other Mekong provinces said priority under the reserve purchase programmes should be given to co-operatives and other rice growing entities under the large-scale production model, which involves pooling of farmlands by individual farmers.
They said the proposal to provide financial support to farmers having more than five tonnes of paddy was fanciful since most cannot store rice without the quality deteriorating.
An official from the Can Tho Department of Agriculture and Rural Development said businesses should not be included in a programme to support farmers.
Besides, none of them bought paddy directly from farmers.
Bong said MARD would continue to gather opinions from farmers and relevant agencies so that a new draft plan for a rice reserve programme can be completed as soon as possible.
It envisages purchase of one million tonnes of rice from the winter-spring crop every year for the reserve in February and March, and 1-1.5 million tonnes from the summer-autumn crop for temporary reserve from July to September. — VNS