Deputy Director of the Agricultural Ministry's Agro-Forestry and Processing and Salt Industry Department, Vo Thanh Do, spoke to Kinh te Viet Nam&The gioi (Viet Nam and World Economy) about Government plans to buy rice surpluses from farmers.
What are the Government's plans to buy up rice?
We know that falling rice prices following the harvest in the Cuu Long (Mekong) Delta always causes big losses to farmers. In the past, the Viet Nam Food Association was assigned by the Prime Minister to buy up surplus rice from farmers in an attempt to stabilise rice prices on the market.
However, implementation of this policy has revealed some constraints, particularly the speculation in rice by trading firms. In addition, harvests take place on a rolling basis over time from one locality to another while the peak period for buying rice lasts only one month. Most of the rice is bought up by individual traders and then resold, with no benefit to the farmers.
These factors have put rice farmers in an disadvantaged position as they are not the direct beneficiaries of Government policies to buy up rice for temporary storage in order to shore up prices.
Deputy Prime Minister Hoang Trung Hai has assigned the Ministry of Agriculture and Rural Development to co-ordinate with relevant ministries and sectors, including the Viet Nam Food Association, to draft regulations on temporarily buying rice during harvests of the Winter-Spring and Autumn-Summer rice crops.
Do you think the suggestion that each household store at least 10 tonnes of rice paddy is feasible, since more than 86 per cent of farm households in the Delta have less than one ha of land on which to grow rice?
When we wrote the proposal, we took that problem into consideration. The first difficulty we come upon during our discussion is most farmers don't have warehouses in which to keep rice.
However, we recommend farming households to gather together into co-operatives and combine efforts to collect at least 10 tonnes of rice paddy to put in storage.
Of course, they will have to invest in jointly building storage facilities, with rice-drying equipment and so forth. If they do so, they will be able to access credit at zero interest rate during the time they store the rice.
I think this policy will have a long-term impact on achieving the goal of sustainable development. Above all, by gathering into a production unit or co-operative, farmers will become stronger.
Some say that the efficiency of our rice production is low due to heavy post-harvest losses and poor processing. Do you agree?
The capacity of our processing industry is very low. Post-harvest losses are high compared with other countries. In south Viet Nam, paddy drying has become a big problem for farmers as their drying yards are small while the rice yield is large. In addition, the moisture content of the grains is high, resulting in a high proportion of broken rice during processing.
At present, up to 70 per cent of rice is still subject to old threshing methods, causing big losses and lowering the quality of the grains. It is calculated that up to 13 per cent of losses occur post-harvest.
The Ministry of Agriculture and Rural Development has asked the Government to issue a policy to help farmers reduce these losses to about 6 per cent by 2020.
In rice production, there are various factors affecting yield, including rice seeds, production procedures, processing and others. Vietnamese researchers hope to produce good rice seeds with high yields which can tolerate drought, resist herbicides and provide more nutrients. We hope advanced technology will help produce high-quality rice with better flavour so that farmers can earn higher incomes. — VNS