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Mekong Delta agriculture fails to live up to potential

Update: May, 21/2014 - 08:19
Farmers harvest and dry rice in the Mekong Delta province of Hau Giang's Vinh Thuan Tay Commune. The Delta has failed to fulfill its agricultural potential despite thirty years of industrialisation and modernisation, experts said.— VNA/VNS Photo Duy Khuong

HCM CITY (VNS) — Thirty years of industrialisation and modernisation and some remarkable achievements notwithstanding, the Cuu Long (Mekong) Delta has failed to fulfil its agricultural potential, experts have said.

Speaking at a seminar held in Can Tho city on Monday Le Van Banh, head of the Cuu Long Delta Rice Research Institute, said paddy output has increased from 4.2 million tonnes in 1976 to 25 million tonnes last year, but "farmers still have low incomes."

The delta, one of the most fertile and largest in the world, produces more than 52 per cent of the country's rice, 58 per cent of the seafood, and 70 per cent of the fruits.

Last year 76,000ha under the large-scale rice fields model saw fully mechanised agriculture.

Yet, Vu Van Phuc, editor-in-chief of Tap Chi Cong San (Communist Review), said, the industrialisation and modernisation of agriculture and rural areas have not gone deep enough.

The rural economy still relies mainly on small-scale agriculture, the household remains the driving force of the agricultural economy, and the scale of the household economy is mostly small, he said.

Others said the delta's potential has not been tapped.

The use of advanced techniques to create value-addition is not widespread and infrastructure, especially for transport and irrigation, is modest, they said.

The rate of mechanisation of harvests has increased in recent years, but only to 40 per cent, they said.

The processing industry is still anaemic, causing low productivity, quality, value addition, and competitiveness of many agricultural products, they said.

Because of the lack of co-operation among farmers, scientists, the Government, and companies, and inadequate policies, the efficiency of co-operation in agriculture production is not high, some participants said.

Farmers produce many kinds of products but cultivation areas are mostly small and scattered.

There is no co-ordination among growers, processors, and sellers, leading to price declines in case of bumper harvests.

Participants said the Government should have clear policies to attract investment in the delta's key produce like rice, seafood, and fruits.

Nguyen Phong Quang, deputy head of the Steering Committee for the Southwest Region, said agricultural production should be rezoned in many areas and under the linking-areas model, which is based on supply - demand balance and improving the quality and value of agricultural products.

The delta's provinces should create favourable conditions to strengthen co-operation within groups like companies and farmers between them to create a close link among production, processing, and sale, he added.

Bui Chi Buu, former head of the Southern Institute of Agriculture Science and Technology, said the delta should step up the use of advanced techniques and technology in agricultural production to enhance productivity and quality.

The delta's extent of post-harvest loss is 12-14 per cent.

Participants said the Government should facilitate investment in infrastructure for rural development and agricultural production and outlets for farm produce.

The seminar was organised by the Steering Committee for the Southwest Region, the Communist Review, and the Can Tho Party Committee. — VNS


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