|Viet Nam Southern Food Corp workers pack rice at a warehouse in the Mekong Delta city of Can Tho. The country's rice exports declined in the first five months of this year. — VNA/VNS Photo Dinh Hue
HCM CITY (VNS) — Maize imports in the first five months of 2015 are on the rise but rice exports are on the decline, according to figures from the Ministry of Agriculture and Rural Development.
Viet Nam imported 2.87 million tonnes of maize, worth US$622 million, up by 30.3 per cent in volume, and an increase of 16.8 per cent in value compared with the same period last year.
The country also imported 700,000 tonnes of beans and other materials for processing of animal feed worth nearly $1.4 billion.
Meanwhile, exports of rice from Viet Nam over the same period reached 2.08 million tonnes, worth $875 million, a decline of 255,000 tonnes in volume and $138 million in values over 2014.
In all, the value of imported animal feed and other materials for the food processing industry in the first five months amounted to nearly $2.3 billion, nearly triple the total value of rice exports over the same period.
Authorities have been urged to re-structure the country's planting systems, aiming to reduce material imports while easing the pressure on rice consumption.
The programme to re-structure rice plantation to other crops including maize began in 2013 when the country's rice exports were stagnant.
However, the programme has faced challenges in many localities across the country.
The slump in the world's farm produce prices, including maize prices, has caused local agricultural products to be less competitive than imported goods.
Maize prices have dropped to less than VND5,000 per kg since the end of 2014, making maize growers' profits lower than rice growers'.
It has forced many farmers to return to rice cultivation.
Huynh The Nang, chairman of Vietnamese Food Association, said that global demand for rice had changed greatly compared to five to 10 years ago. Rice growing countries have increasingly raised their output, while rice buyers have also been promoting rice production.
"It's time for Viet Nam to re-consider rice production and exports with an aim to raise the added value of this product and a bigger effort to change rice into more necessary crops," he said. —VNS