Vietnamese rice growers need to modernise their techniques, Duong Quoc Xuan, deputy head of the South West Steering Committee, told Tin Tuc (News) newspaper.
Farmers in the Cuu Long (Mekong) Delta - the "rice bowl" of the country - are distressed at the huge amount of rice piling up. What can you do about this situation?
Some 2 million tonnes of rice are reported to have piled up in warehouses in the Cuu Long (Mekong) Delta. And in about two months, the farmers will start to harvest the Summer-Autumn rice crop. As a result, even more rice will pile up.
As we all know, the rainy season will start when the farmers harvest their summer-autumn rice crop. Another burden will be added to the farmers' shoulders in such weather. No sun means that they cannot dry their paddy rice properly, so the rice quality will be reduced. And – this is unavoidable – the price will fall.
Facing this situation, the government and the Ministry of Agriculture and Rural Development have decided to buy rice to store temporarily. However, if only one million tonnes of rice is bought, this will not help the farmers there much.
Annually, farmers in the Cuu Long (Mekong) Delta produce about 24 million tonnes of paddy rice - equal to about 12 million tonnes of rice. But under the government's instructions, enterprises will buy only two million tonnes of rice to keep temporarily in warehouses, of which one million tonnes will come from the winter-spring crop and one million tonnes from the summer-autumn crop. Selling rice to enterprises in line with the government's policy, the farmers will see only a 30 per cent profit margin.
As we all know, farmers in the Cuu Long (Mekong) Delta earn most of their profits from livestock production, rice growing and services. So to help the farmers stabilise their lives and have some money to spare for a rainy day, in my opinion, the government should order enterprises to buy all the farmers' rice.
And I am confident that the farmers will be very happy about the stable output of their rice, as their lives are attached to rice production.
That could be a good solution for the immediate future. But in the long run, what can the government do to improve their living conditions?
This is the government and local authorities' responsibility. It is a bit ironic that despite living in the country's "rice bowl", these farmers cannot become rich from growing rice.
In the Cuu Long (Mekong) Delta, farmers grow three rice crops a year. In some localities, if production is well-organised, they can grow seven crops in two consecutive years. However, the problem here is how to ensure a stable outlet for their rice and other agricultural products. All this needs support from the government, in terms of policy or mechanisms. In my opinion, first of all, the government and relevant ministries and sectors should identify the correct rice cultivation area to ensure food safety for the country. Then the remaining agricultural land should be dedicated to growing other crops of high economic value that are sought after in the market.
For farmers engaged in rice growing, they cannot till their land in the old way, with a buffalo and a plough. They have to introduce high technology into farm work and post-harvest activities, including processing. In other words, they should think of the development of the processing industry for their rice and other agricultural products.
For rice export enterprises, besides their traditional markets, they should increase their trade promotions to expand into new markets.
I strongly believe if these measures receive a positive response from the government, localities and enterprises, the farmers in the Cuu Long (Mekong) Delta will have a much better life. — VNS