|Farmers harvest rice in Tieu Can District, southern Tra Vinh Province. The Mekong Delta province plans to invest US$640 million to implement agricultural production restructuring in the period of 2015-20. — VNA/VNS Photo An Hieu
HCM CITY (VNS) — The Cuu Long (Mekong) Delta province of Tra Vinh plans to invest VND13.4 trillion (US$640 million) to implement 72 projects in the province's restructuring of agricultural production between 2015 and 2020.
The province's Department of Agriculture and Rural Development said the projects would include the building of dykes, bridges, sluice gates, irrigation works, clean water supply systems and resident-relocation areas.
The project also includes forest cultivation to respond to climate change, and production of animal and aquatic breeding stocks and crop seedlings.
Fishing ports and shelter areas for fishing boats will also be built.
After two years of restructuring agricultural production, Tra Vinh has invested VND588 billion ($28 million) to build 10 irrigation works for aquatic cultivation and five dykes and embankments, among other projects.
Private investors and local residents have also dredged and built 500 small irrigation canals in fields with a total length of 350km.
Last year, the province's agricultural production value reached VND8.7 trillion ($410 million), a record increase, and up 6.7 per cent against 2013.
Over the past two years, farmers have converted more than 3,100 ha of rice fields to other crop cultivation areas.
In the 2015-16 sugarcane season, Tra Vinh has developed the first two sugarcane large-scale fields with a total area of 46.5ha and the participation of 67 households in Tra Cu District.
To encourage farmers participating in large-scale sugarcane fields, the Tra Vinh Sugar Company has provided sugarcane seedlings and loans and guaranteed outlets for participating farmers.
The company's agriculture officials have also offered instruction to farmers in sugarcane cultivation methods.
Huynh Van Thao, head of the Tra Cu Agriculture and Rural Development Bureau, said sugarcane in large-scale fields had developed well with fewer diseases, promising a high-yield harvest.
Tra Vinh has been growing rice on a large scale since 2011.
The province now has 27 large-scale rice fields with a total area of 4,236ha in the districts of Tra Cu, Chau Thanh, Cau Ngang, Tieu Can, Cau Ke and Cang Long.
Farmers who participate in large-scale rice fields are given 40 per cent of support for rice seed costs and farming techniques, reducing production costs by VND1.3-2.5 million ($60 - $120) per ha.
The Tra Vinh Food Company has also guaranteed to buy paddy from participating farmers.
Tran Van Quan, a farmer who participates in a large–scale rice field in Tieu Can District's Phu Can Commune, said his family had harvested 0.7ha of summer-autumn rice with a yield of 5.25 tonnes.
At the beginning of the crop, the Tra Vinh Food Company signed a contract to buy Quan's rice at a price of VND4,600 (20 cents) a kilo. After deducting all production costs, Quan earned a profit of VND14 million ($630) from the summer-autumn rice crop.
Tra Vinh plans to increase the area of large-scale rice fields to 9,281 ha by 2020. All large scale-rice fields will be planted under Vietnamese Good Agriculture Practices (VietGAP).
The province has targeted that half of large scale-rice fields will be operated by co-operatives by 2020.
The province has also called on investors to develop areas to cultivate high-quality rice for export, and corn, sweet potato and other cash crops, as well as sugarcane and speciality fruits, in the 2015-20 period.
It is also seeking investors to produce plant seedlings and seeds for cultivation.
The provincial People's Committee will use VND62 billion ($2.9 million) to support co-operatives to develop linkages in production, processing and sales on a large scale.
Tran Trung Hien, director of the province's Department of Agriculture and Rural Development, said some companies inside and outside Tra Vinh wanted to invest in large fields in agricultural production to have stable material areas for production and trade.
However, cooperation between farmers and processing companies continued to be problematic as farmers often violated their contracts with these companies by selling produce to traders at prices higher than those agreed to in contracts.
Therefore, companies had been reluctant to sign contracts directly with farmers, he said.
Nguyen Phu Si, deputy director of the Tra Vinh Food Company, said the province's Cooperative Alliance and the agricultural sector should support farmers to set up co-operatives and co-operative groups, and produce rice on a large scale.
This would help avoid the situation of small-scale, scattered production, he said. — VNS