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Mekong farmers switch to lucrative alternatives

Update: August, 02/2014 - 08:56
Farmers grow cucumbers on converted fields. A switch to growing high-value crops on low-yield rice fields has paid dividends for farmers in the Cuu Long (Mekong) Delta. — VNA/VNS Photo Van Khanh
HCM CITY (VNS)— A switch to growing high-value crops on low-yield rice fields has paid dividends for farmers in the Cuu Long (Mekong) Delta.

Huynh Van Hau of Vinh Long Province's Long Ho District harvested 2ha of soybean this summer-autumn and earned profits of nearly VND40 million (US$1,900).

He was earlier growing rice on the field but productivity had been low.

"In previous years the price of rice was volatile and my family earned just a few million dong per crop from a hectare of rice," he said.

Vo Phuoc Bao of Tra On District in the same province has been growing waxy corn on his 1ha of land since 2012 because rice yields were too low.

He earned a profit of VND45 million ($2,100) for each corn crop, two times higher than rice.

The Ministry of Agriculture and Rural Development targets a switch to high-value crops on 112,000ha of low-yielding rice fields in the Delta in 2013-15.

To encourage this process, the Government has decided to provide a subsidy of VND2 million ($95) per hectare to farmers who do this.

Last year more than 87,000ha were converted, according to the ministry's Plant Cultivation Department.

Dong Thap has led the region in the process, converting 31,000ha of rice fields, followed by Soc Trang Province with 19,800ha and Tra Vinh Province with 12,000ha.

Farmers now growing other crops like corn, soybean, sesame, red chilli, lotus, and vegetables earn profits of VND15-46 million ($714 -2,190) per hectare, according to the Dong Thap Department of Agriculture and Rural Development.

The profits from low-yielding rice fields are less than a quarter of this, it said.

In Dong Thap, An Giang, Tra Vinh, Soc Trang, and Long An, replacing rice with corn is yielding profits 30-100 per cent higher, according to local officials.

Nguyen Thanh Tung, director of the Long An Agriculture Extension Centre, said the province is determined that corn, sesame, and peanut would be the three major crops replacing rice on unsuitable fields.

Of the three, corn has been identified as the most important crop, he added.

Nguyen Huu An, head of the An Giang Sub-department of Plant Protection, said it is not difficult to persuade rice famers to switch to corn and sesame since they have experience in growing them too.

But the biggest concern is finding outlets for these crops after harvest since steady co-operation between farmers and buyers has yet to be established, he said.

To make the conversion effective, the ministry has urged delta provinces to draw up comprehensive plans for what crops will be planted where by region and year. — VNS


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