Harvesting summer-autumn rice in Cần Thơ Province. VNA/VNS Photo Thanh Liêm
HÀ NỘI – The Government should buy summer-autumn rice for temporary storage to push up consumption demand and provide security for farmers, the Deputy Minister of Agriculture and Rural Development, Trần Thanh Nam, has said.
The price of summer-autumn rice crop in the southern region has been falling sharply due to a lack of purchasing power and the temporary closure of many processing factories caused by COVID-19.
"The amount of summer-autumn rice harvested was quite big. If there is no timely policy, many people will profit at the expense of farmers,” said Nam at a meeting with provincial officials.
“Therefore, the Government should have a purchasing policy and temporarily store the summer-autumn rice. When the market is stimulated, rice prices will go up and farmers will be motivated to grow more autumn-winter rice," he said.
According to the deputy minister, many farmers were hesitant to sow an autumn-winter rice crop, so if the government did not purchase and stimulate the market in time, it would affect the whole year's rice production.
Lê Thanh Hùng, deputy head of the Ministry of Agriculture and Rural Development (MARD) Department of Crop Production said at present, the Cửu Long (Mekong) Delta provinces had just harvested 600,000ha of summer-autumn rice. About 900,000ha would be harvested in August and September.
At present, the summer-autumn rice price was VNĐ300,000-500,000 (US$13.1-21.8) per tonne lower than the previous crop.
Trương Kiến Thọ, deputy director of the Agriculture and Rural Development Department of An Giang Province, said that the province had sown 228,000ha of summer-autumn rice and by the end of July, only 40 per cent of the planting area was harvested.
August and September would be the peak harvest time with over 135,000ha, Thọ said.
However, rice stockpiles in the area were going down because workers were afraid of COVID-19 and factories did not have enough operators, he said.
The province had also been under social distancing orders that had slowed down the progress of the harvest, he said.
"At present, people in An Giang are permitted to go out from 6am to 6pm daily. As a result, many rice traders have stopped purchasing rice in the areas bordering Kiên Giang Province and Cambodia because of the long distance. It is not possible to make it there and back within the day,” Thọ said.
“Many traders are also afraid of COVID-19 infection, so they have halted their businesses,” he added.
Similarly, Nguyễn Chí Thiện, deputy director of Agriculture and Rural Development Department of Long An Province, said that his locality currently had 150,000ha of summer-autumn rice.
However, due to the lack of labourers and traders, the rice could not be harvested, Thiện said.
In addition, the province also had 100,000 tonnes of sticky rice which would be difficult to consume and sell at a low price.
According to Thiện, harvest workers and traders were mainly from neighboring provinces. At present, most of the Cửu Long Delta provinces are applying social distancing and travelling from one province to another is difficult so traders do not want to go out to purchase rice.
According to statistics from Long An’s Agriculture and Rural Development Department, so far, local farmers have harvested more than 53,200ha of summer-autumn rice, mainly in the Đồng Tháp Mười (Plain of Reeds) area.
With the current drop in rice prices, farmers made little profit. Some even made nothing at all.
Nguyễn Quang Hòa, director of Dương Vũ Company in Thủ Thừa District of Long An Province, said that the reason for the fall in the price of summer-autumn rice was because the rice harvest and processing chains were broken.
"When the summer-autumn rice was at peak harvest, the output was very large. Under normal conditions, the entire system of harvesters, purchasing boats and drying kilns would be fully operational at full capacity,” Hoà said.
“However, due to the COVID-19 outbreak, the operation was broken. Boats could not come to paddy fields to buy and there was a lack of labour to harvest the crops. Many rice processing factories were also forced to close or reduce capacity,” he said.
If there is no timely policy, to purchase this rice, from the Government, the farmers will suffer and rice production will be affected, according to the meeting attendees. - VNS