Viet Nam News
by Hà Nguyễn
Nguyễn Văn Khanh, 47, earns VNĐ3-4 billion (US$132,000-176,000) a year from re-producing an exciting type of rice from Japan known as ĐS1. To do it, he had to acquire land from relatives and friends so that he can use mechanised farm equipment to handle the large cultivation area.
The Japanese strain of rice, researched for years, is soft, fragrant, very tasty and more productive than other strains, such as IR50404 which is hard, not so tasty and less productive. The concept has impressed rural and government authorities so much they are prepared to back it , seeing it as the start of a new era in national rice production which has been unchanged for centuries.
The Mekong Delta farmer from Đồng Tháp Province’s Phú Cường Village in Tam Nông District has accumulated 120ha of land to grow the new strain of rice, also known as Japonica, which has been imported by the Agriculture Genetics Institute (AGP). The rice meets high quality standards for export.
Khanh said that fertile land in the Đồng Tháp region was famous for its vast length and breadth. A folk saying goes that it would take all day for a stork to fly over it. But rice cultivation in the delta has not changed much in several thousand years. Farmers continue to grow crops on tiny pieces of land that make it impossible to use motorised equipment, such as rice harvesters.
Khanh discussed the problem with his brothers and sisters and asked them to let him use all the land left by their parents to grow ĐS1 rice. After several days of discussions, they agreed to let him manage 80ha of land.
Broad acres: Mechanisation has brought larger fields - and profits.
Khanh’s elderly brother Nguyễn Văn Kha said: “We saw Khanh’s passion for rice growing, so we decided to transfer the right of using our land to him. Each year he pays us VNĐ18 million per hectare as rental.”
Khanh admitted he was initially worried about making a profit to pay them. "But my wife encouraged me to try. We borrowed money from our relatives, friends and banks to buy tilling machines and harvesters to handle such an immense pieced of land,” he said.
He travelled to the nearby province of An Giang to learn about the ĐS1 rice seeds, which is highly resistant to diseases and pests and can adapt to the alkaline soil in Đồng Tháp. He also built a rice storage shed and dredged out channels and a drainage system.
As a result, the first crop in 2012 produced between 6.2-6.5 tonnes of rice per hectare compared to the normal yield for Vietnamese rice of between 4-4.5 tonnes/ha. Already, several rice exporting companies have signed contracts with him to sell them the rice from VNĐ6,500 to VNĐ7,100/kg.
“For each crop between 1,000- 1,1000, I earn a profit of between VNĐ3-4 billion,” Khanh said.
Thái Văn Thành, a neighbour of Khanh, said, “ I have my land near Khanh’s and we cultivated the same rice seed, but because he has more land, he has higher yield and quality, so many companies arrived to pay more for his special crop.”
By 2015, Khanh had accumulated a total of 120ha to grow Japanese rice, harvesting 10 tonnes per hectares. By July the same year, Đồng Tháp Party Secretary Lê Minh Hoan made a tour to Khanh’s field, saying he appreciated the potential and prospective development of the model.
“You should learn more about business management and stimulate more farmers to follow your model to produce the Japanese rice and then set up a large business to reduce costs and create more profits for farmers,” Hoan told Khanh.
Khanh agreed with the provincial leader, saying he had plans to acquire 150ha of land to improve quality, reduce spending and increase profit.
He proposed the State improve bridges and expand roads to create better conditions for transporting farming materials and rice.
Nguyễn Văn Thành, chairman of the Tam Nông District’s Farmers Association, said he highly valued Khanh’s rice cultivation methods. He said Khanh had created stable jobs for nearly 30 workers on a monthly income of between VNĐ5-7 million, and millions of đồng for community charities.
Chief of Tam Nông District Nguyễn Văn Na said: “ This is a unique model which has been researched by relevant agencies and organisations so as to apply it into large-scale production from now to 2020 and years later. We aim to contribute our cultivating methods and experiences to Đồng Tháp Province.
"We will also ask the Ministry of Agriculture and Rural Development to make a suitable policy for the country’s agriculture to help farmers escape from poverty.” VNS