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Rice sector reform should focus on quality varieties

Update: December, 27/2014 - 09:24
According to the Cultivation Department, about 365 rice varieties are currently licensed for production in Viet Nam. — Photo thaibinhseed
HA NOI  (VNS) — The development of quality varieties remains key to restructuring the nation's rice sector, officials said yesterday.

Speaking at a conference held by the Institute of Policy and Strategy for Agriculture and Rural Development, Tran Xuan Dinh, deputy head of the Ministry of Agriculture and Rural Development's Cultivation Department, said the rice sector was facing fierce competition from emerging markets and major efforts were needed to boost quality of Viet Nam's rice products.

According to the Cultivation Department, about 365 rice varieties are currently licensed for production in Viet Nam. Of these, just 15 per cent of the rice varieties are supplied by companies, institutes and research centers while many others are used by farmers putting aside seeds after each harvest season. The department claimed that this results in low rice quality.

Agriculture experts at the conference also estimated that just 10 per cent of rice varieties grown in the Mekong Delta go through quality inspections before being sold in the market.

There was general agreement at the conference that better ways must be found to assist farmers access quality rice varieties developed by institutes and researchers.

A report said that of 50 new rice varieties recently developed by the Cuu Long Delta Rice Research Institute, only seven have been given to firms and distributed to farmers.

Tu Anh, deputy director of Phu Tho Province's Department of Agriculture and Rural Development, said relevant government agencies should identify the types of rice varieties can be given more resources for expanded cultivation.

Restructuring plans for the rice sector should also identify rice varieties suitable for different regions in the country, he said.

Different approaches

Dinh agreed, saying that the ministry was also looking at different approaches to restructuring the rice sector. One approach under consideration was to have the Mekong Delta focus on rice varieties for export, while the Northern and Central regions prioritise domestic market needs, he said.

Nguyen Van Vuong, another official of the Cultivation Department, said most rice varieties that Viet Nam developed tend to focus on "easy markets", due to a lack of human resources and investment in technology.

Le Hong Nhu from the Association of Bonsai and Ornamental Plants Association said there must be a clear criteria set for assessing rice varieties earmarked for expanded cultivation or elimination.

Associate Professor Le Vinh Thao, formerly with the Viet Nam Institute of Agricultural Science, stressed the need for using rice varieties that need less water and other inputs like fertilizers. He said this is needed to ensure sustainable quality of Viet Nam's rice products. — VNS

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