Other crops’ problem striking Mekong Delta

Trung Chanh

At a conference held in the Mekong Delta city of Can Tho at the end of last month, Truong Thanh Phong, chairman of VFA, proposed provinces in the region to reduce farming areas of the third rice crop to develop other crops instead.

Phong ascribed his proposal to food oversupply worldwide, especially huge inventories in India and Thailand which have driven Vietnamese rice exports into difficulties.

However, Le Van Banh, director of the Mekong Delta Rice Research Institute, wondered what farmers would grow if they stop the third rice crop as well as who will look for outlets for their products then.

Several farmers said meager profits they earn from the third rice crop help them make ends meet and pay school fees for their children in the face of economic difficulties, Banh told the conference.

The local agricultural industry has encouraged farmers to switch to planting other crops and raising other animals but no relevant authorities dare to name those crops to be adopted accordingly, he stressed.

In fact, Can Tho University has repeatedly deployed the model of shifting from rice farming to other crops for years. But the problem is that the model only benefits small scale farmers, while bringing nothing if launched on a larger scale, Banh noted.

The proposal on shifting from rice farming in the third crop to others came after many experts had warned of the crop’s dark side, including small benefits, high production costs and bad environmental outcomes.

In 2009-2011, numerous provinces in the delta focused on enhancing the closed dyke system to grow the third rice crop to ensure food security and produce more rice for exports in line with the instruction of the Ministry of Agriculture and Rural Development.

At that time, the break of the dyke system in Sa Rai Town in Tan Hong District in Dong Thap Province caused heavy damages to the third rice crop in the locality, wasting billions of dong of farmers’ money and great efforts of the local labor force. In reality, the local government’s request on the crop development failed to gain the consensus of most local residents at that time.

Three dyke systems suffered breaks in Tan Hong in 2011, including the Ca Mui northern and southern sides and Ca Vang Field, causing damages worth over VND30 billion, said Phung Thanh Hai, chairman of Tan Hong District.

Regarding this issue, Nguyen Tri Ngoc, director of the Cultivation Department under the agricultural ministry, then told local media expanding the third rice crop in the Mekong Delta is the right policy with an aim of producing an additional one million tons of rice to serve local demand and exports as part of the national food security program. On the contrary, numerous scientists voiced their disagreements with the policy, citing the dangers caused by the crop.