Vietnam wants to cut rice production, switch to commercial crops

By Hoai Thu, Hoang Thuy, Viet Tuan   November 6, 2019 | 04:30 pm PT
Vietnam wants to cut rice production, switch to commercial crops
A farmer walks on a paddy field in the Mekong Delta province of Kien Giang, July 2019. Photo by VnExpress/Thanh Nguyen.
Vietnam, one of the world’s top rice exporters, is thinking of cutting rice output and switching to other crops.

"The rice sector is a risky one, and it cannot ensure economic efficiency," Minister of Agriculture and Rural Development Nguyen Xuan Cuong said.

The world has seven billion people but only around half eat rice daily, and such external factors have put pressure on rice exports, he told legislators at a National Assembly session on Wednesday.

The government plans to seek approval from the house to reduce the area under paddy by 0.5 million hectares from the current 4.1 ha, which would reduce rice output by 3-4 million tons a year, he said.

It would have no impact on food security, he assured.

"Instead of paddy, we will use the land for other crops that are more economically efficient."

The global demand for rice is around 36 million tons a year.

Vietnam, the world’s third largest exporter behind India and Thailand for several years now, exported over six million tons worth $3.15 billion last year, up 16 percent from 2017.

Cuong said the agricultural sector would also restructure rice production by giving priority to varieties that are most in demand.

Rice bran oil generates higher economic value than rice, he said.

Many businesses and farmers in the Mekong Delta, the nation’s rice bowl, have turned their attention to the oil.

In the central province of Quang Tri, an organic rice model has been launched on an area of 600 hectares.

"These are all right moves that will help Vietnam increase the value of its rice," Cuong said.

Legislators questioned the minister about other crops that would replace rice, and about support policies for growing coconut trees.

Coconut trees could help respond to climate change as they could withstand saltwater as has been proven in many places in the south and the north-central region, he said.

Globally, the area under coconut has been shrinking, and this is the right time for Vietnam to focus on this fruit, and coconut products could have great economic significance, he said.

The agriculture ministry has already tasked related research institutions and authorities in provinces with drawing up plans for asexual reproduction of coconut trees.

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