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Economists say Vietnam focuses too much on rice exporting


Hoang Ngoc Phong, deputy director of the Economic Development Consultancy Center, said the Mekong Delta makes up 18 percent of GDP with 90 percent of rice exports, 60 percent of seafood and 70 percent of fruit exports.

However, the delta now has to pay the penalty for massive exploitation and poor development plans.

Vietnam is still gathering strength on rice production, taking pride as the biggest rice exporter in the world.
Phong stressed that it is necessary to find a new direction for the delta development by changing the agricultural production model.

“Why do we still grow rice though rice cannot help farmers get rich?” he said.

He believes that Mekong Delta needs fresh water for 1 million hectares of rice growing areas.

“Agriculture doesn’t always mean rice cultivation. It would be better to reduce the rice growing area to a reasonable level. We don’t strive to grow rice to export rice products at low prices, because farmers cannot make profits, while the state has to make heavy investments,” he said.

Phong went on to say that instead of trying to prevent saline intrusion, Mekong Delta should adapt to it.

In fact, in many localities, people have adapted to the saltwater intrusion when changing the crop structure. They have one rice crop and one shrimp/fish crop instead of two rice crops a year.

Vo Tong Xuan, a renowned agriculture expert, also thinks that it would be better to focus on growing the crops which don’t need too much water.

“Vietnam needs about 18 million tons of rice only. Therefore, growing rice should no longer be a top priority. The rice output should be high enough to eat and store 2 million tons,” Xuan said.

He expressed his concern about the serious subsidence Mekong Delta, which is caused by overexploitation of underground water. In coastal provinces, underground water is used to irrigate rice fields. Every ton of farm produce needs 4,500 liters of water.

According to Xuan, to ensure food security, Mekong Delta only needs to grow 1.5 million hectares of rice and have two instead of three crops.

“The more rice we grow, the more rice is in excess. The oversupply leads to price reductions and farmers cannot make a profit,” Xuan said.

According to the Vietnam Food Association (VFA), Vietnam exported 466,000 tons of rice in September, worth $210 million, raising the total export volume to 4.57 million tons in the first nine months and the export turnover to $2.02 billion.