HCM CITY (VNS)— Hybrid-rice production and cultivation in Viet Nam has been on the upswing in the last few decades, but farmers still must import at least 70 per cent of the hybrid seeds, mostly from China, according to agricultural experts.
|Scientists analyse a hybrid-rice field in the northern province of Hai Duong. Vietnamese farmers must import at least 70 per cent of the hybrid seeds. — VNA/VNS Photo Dinh Hue
To address the need, the Ministry of Agriculture and Rural Development has set up plans to expand areas devoted to hybrid F1 seeds from the current 2,000ha to 5,000ha by 2015.
The Government will also offer funds to private and State-owned companies as well as research institutes in an aim to develop domestically-produced seeds of better quality.
In 1991, the country began planting F1 hybrid-rice seeds, which have higher yields and are more resistant to disease than inbred varieties. The area under cultivation with such seeds increased to 700,000ha by 2009.
Not only did this help secure the country's food security, it made Viet Nam the world's third-largest hybrid-rice producer, after China and India, according to the Plant Cultivation Department under the Ministry of Agriculture and Rural Development (MARD).
Hybrid-rice varieties, which are used mostly in the central and northern regions, are favoured by many farmers over inbred-rice varieties because they are easier to grow.
Over the last year, however, the country's hybrid-rice cultivation area has fallen to about 559,000ha, with an average yield of 6.19 tonnes per hectare a crop, accounting for 12-15 per cent of the country's total rice-cultivation area.
Speaking at a seminar in northern Nam Dinh Province on Sept 18 to discuss targets for the 2013-20 period, Pham Dong Quang, deputy head of the Plant Cultivation Department, said many domestic hybrid-rice varieties had been certified, but most of them were not key varieties and could not compete with imported varieties.
Viet Nam needs between 15,000 tonnes and 18,000 tonnes of F1 seeds for cultivation a year, but domestically produced F1 seeds meet only 20-25 per cent of the demand.
Also speaking at the seminar, which was organised by MARD and the Nam Dinh People's Committee, was Nguyen Thanh Lam, general secretary of the Viet Nam Seed Trade Association.
He said the Government had invested more money to produce F1 seeds to meet demand, but fewer farmers were using them.
Only a few domestically produced hybrid-rice varieties were available in Viet Nam, and these come from the same female parental line.
Thus, there are not enough different kinds of hybrid-rice seeds to suit a variety of soil and climate conditions in the country.
The director of the Hybrid Rice Research and Development Centre, Nguyen Tri Hoan, who is also head of the Institute of Food and Foodstuff Crops, said the shortage of researchers was a major cause behind the poor development of F1 seed production.
The lack of cooperation among research institutes and seed companies was another obstacle, he added.
Once the seed varieties are developed by research institutes, seed companies must take part in production activities. Research institutes would only be able to produce about 50-70 per cent of the seeds, Hoan said.
Mai Ba Luyen, deputy director of central Thanh Hoa Province's Department of Agriculture and Rural Development, pointed out that the most significant problem was whether local researchers could create hybrid-rice varieties with quality as high as imported seeds.
"If they are competitive, then seed companies and farmers could earn profits from producing the domestic variety of F1 seeds, and we could expand cultivation areas," he said, adding that Thanh Hoa Province had developed areas where farmers specialise in producing F1 seeds.
Under MARD's plan to 2015, the area under hybrid-rice cultivation would increase to 800,000ha. Domestic production of F1 seeds must meet 50-60 per cent of the country's demand.
Duong Duc Huy, deputy director of northern Lao Cai Province's Department of Agriculture and Rural Development, said domestic seed companies could reach this target easily.
But the problem is the limited number of female parental lines to produce F1 seeds.
"If we choose domestic female parental lines and import female parental lines for cross-breeding, then we could have enough to meet demand," he said.
For example, the hybrid-rice variety LC 25 was cross-bred from an imported female parental line and a domestic male parental line by Lao Cai Province's Agriculture and Forestry Seed Centre.
It received national certification a year ago, and many farmers bought the F1 seeds.
This year, the production cost of domestically produced F1 seeds has been about VND50,000 a kilo, while the price of Chinese F1 seeds cost VND100,000 a kilo.
"This shows that the production cost of domestically produced F1 seeds can compete on price with Chinese F1 seeds," Huy said.
Le Quoc Doanh, head of the Plant Protection Department, said MARD planned to invest in infrastructure and equipment for F1 seed production in the Tay Nguyen (Central Highlands) province of Dak Lak, the central provinces of Quang Nam and Thanh Hoa, and the northern provinces of Lao Cai and Son La.
From 2013 to 2020, MARD would increase hybrid-rice cultivation area for the winter-spring crop and summer-autumn crop in the north – central region, the Hong (Red) River Delta, and the mountainous northern region. —VNS