CUU LONG DELTA (VNS)— Alternating the cultivation of rice and shrimp has proved effective in coastal areas of the Cuu Long (Mekong) Delta and has great scope for further development, experts say.
|Farmers overseeing shrimp-farming in southern Tien Giang Province. The local authorities plan to expand operations by enlarging the area of the rice-shrimp farming model in the Cuu Long (Mekong) Delta.— VNA/VNS Photo Minh Tri
They say the model offers higher returns than the farming of only paddy or shrimp.
The area under the rice-shrimp farming model in the delta has increased rapidly in recent years, from a few thousand hectares in 2005 to 160,000ha at present, according to the Plant Cultivation Department under the Ministry of Agriculture and Rural Development (MARD).
With the rice-shrimp farming model, farmers in coastal provinces let salt water enter the fields to farm shrimp during the dry season and use rainwater to grow rice in the rainy season.
With the development of high-quality rice varieties that are saline-resistant and suitable for use in the combined farming model, coastal provinces in the delta have been expanding rice-shrimp farming.
For instance, ST, a fragrant rice variety developed in Soc Trang Province, has been found suitable for planting in the rice-shrimp fields.
The province's My Xuyen District has increased its rice-shrimp farming area from 8,000ha in 2009 to 19,000ha at present.
Rice-shrimp farming, which is being carried out in the delta's Soc Trang, Tra Vinh, Bac Lieu, Ca Mau, Ben Tre, Kien Giang and Long An provinces, could increase to 180,000ha by 2015 and 200,000ha by 2020, the Plant Cultivation Department estimates.
Speaking at a seminar held early this month in Soc Trang, Truong Thanh Phong, chairman of the Viet Nam Food Association, said the cultivation of one rice crop and one shrimp crop per year in the same field was very special to Viet Nam.
"If farmers choose high quality rice varieties to grow in rice-shrimp fields, they will get high economic returns," Phong said.
He said the export outlook for high quality and fragrant rice varieties would be bright.
Rice-shrimp fields yielded profits 15-30 per cent higher than when only rice or shrimp was cultivated, participants said at the seminar.
There were less disease outbreaks and rice grows better in rice-shrimp fields, they claimed.
Rice-shrimp farming also produces "cleaner" shrimp and rice as this production model used less fertilisers and pesticides, and was therefore more environmentally friendly, they said.
Nguyen Van Luat, former head of the Cuu Long Delta Rice Research Institute, said that under the new model, shrimp was still the main crop, and rice cultivation had a beneficial impact on the former.
At the seminar, representatives of rice-shrimp farming provinces petitioned MARD to issue policies encouraging investment in small and medium scale infrastructure facilities that would facilitate application of the new model.
The ministry should also encourage the development of more rice varieties suitable for the rice-shrimp farming model and help market the farms' produce, they said.
They also asked the ministry to set up an agriculture extension project in the delta that would provide guidance on different ways to apply the rice-shrimp farming model as recommended by scientists.
Ho Quang Cua, deputy director of the Soc Trang Department of Agriculture and Rural Development, said not enough attention has been paid to investment in research and infrastructure development for rice-shrimp farming.
This has caused avoidable losses to rice-shrimp farmers in several provinces, he said.
For example, Cua said, saline water intrusion had badly affected more than 10,000ha of rice fields in Kien Giang Province in 2009. As many as 5,000ha were totally destroyed.
MARD Deputy Minister Bui Ba Bong said the delta's coastal provinces had advantageous conditions to develop rice-shrimp farming.
Rice-shrimp farms should focus on high quality produce so farmers earn higher incomes compared to areas where two to three rice crops were harvested every year, he said.
He said delta provinces should develop organic rice production in rice-shrimp farming areas as organic rice got higher selling prices and would support sustainable shrimp cultivation.
His ministry planned to develop irrigation systems to serve rice-shrimp farming areas, Bong added. — VNS