|Farmers take care of watermelon trees in Can Tho City in the Mekong Delta. The agricultural sector in the Mekong Delta will be restructured in efforts to increase farmers' incomes and produce higher quality produce. — VNA/VNS Photo Duy Khuong
SOC TRANG (VNS) — The Ministry of Agriculture and Rural Development plans to restructure the agricultural sector in the Mekong Delta to increase farmers' incomes and produce higher quality produce.
Government officials and agricultural experts attending the Mekong Delta Economic Co-operation Soc Trang Forum yesterday agreed that it was essential to restructure the sector and link it to the national "new rural-area" programme.
Though Viet Nam is the one of the world's top rice exporters, many of its farmers remain poor.
In recent years, the country has provided training to farmers to help them increase yields, but the processing sector and the volume of raw material input has not done as well.
Under restructuring, production chains would be established which would help enterprises, farmers and scientists work more efficiently.
Minister of Agriculture and Rural Development Cao Duc Phat, who spoke at the forum, said that agricultural restructuring would enhance economic growth and create sustainable higher incomes for farmers.
"Building new rural areas and restructuring agriculture depends on farmers. Even adapting to climate change and rising sea levels, farmers must be part of the process," Phat said.
Restructuring should focus on the delta's strengths - rice, fruit, and seafood, he added.
He said that farmers need more instruction in advanced techniques, including the use of new rice strains that give better rice quality. Also, it is essential to transfer technologies so that farmers can increase yields, he added.
Although farmers have been encouraged to grow other crops of high economic value on their paddy fields, rice paddies will remain the stronghold of Vietnamese agriculture.
Forum attendees said that cultivation of other crops would be beneficial but that it must be determined by the market.
Minister Phat pointed out that An Giang Province should continue to focus on paddy and Tra fish but it should also grow other crops.
"An Giang is the leader in applying the large-scale farm model. However, there should be closer linkages between raw material producers, processing companies, enterprises that buy products and farmers," Phat said, adding that linkage between localities in Mekong Delta was also essential.
Professor Vo Tong Xuan said that nearly 70 percent of raw materials for the agricultural sector still needed to be imported.
The industrial and service sectors have also not given sufficient support to the agricultural sector, he added.
Xuan said Vietnamese farmers and enterprises lack thorough understanding about the market.
"Farmers are still poor even though we are top rice exporter," Xuan said, adding that better production chains would help improve farmers' incomes.
The need to reform the sector is urgent, as the ASEAN Economic Community (to begin next year), the Trans Pacific Partnership (currently under negotiation) and other free trade agreements under negotiation will all change the trading landscape.
"With the demand for higher quality, lower prices, delivery deadlines and better products, farmers cannot do everything themselves," Xuan said.
The Mekong Delta produces 90 per cent of the country's rice exports, 60 per cent of seafood exports, and 70 per cent of the country's fruit.
MDEC is a cooperative activity between the Steering Committee for the Southwestern Region, the National Committee for International Economic Co-operation, Vietnamese ministries, HCM City People's Committee and the Mekong Delta's provinces and major cities. — VNS