Agricultural sector reduces rice-growing areas, improves rice quality

In recent days, the export prices of Vietnamese rice have continued to top rice exporting countries, surpassing those of Thailand, India, and Pakistan. Typically, on January 22, the export price was at US$523 per ton for five-percent broken rice, $498 per ton for 25-percent broken rice, and $438 per ton for 100-percent broken rice. Last year, the export prices of Vietnamese rice also took the highest position many times.
Rice harvesting in the Mekong Delta. (Photo: SGGP)
Rice harvesting in the Mekong Delta. (Photo: SGGP)

The domestic rice industry has innovated its post-harvest and processing technologies in the past many years to achieve the above results.

According to the Department of Crop Production under the Ministry of Agriculture and Rural Development (MARD), there are more than 550 large-scale mechanical milling facilities across the country, mainly concentrated in the Mekong Delta, accounting for 95 percent. They apply post-harvest technologies, such as modern combine harvester and advanced rice processing technology. Especially, the milling, polishing, and preservation technologies have improved, so post-harvest loss has declined by 11-13 percent to below 10 percent.

Total industrial processing production accounts for about 55-60 percent of processing output. The rest is processed in small facilities to serve domestic consumption. Agro-ecological zones, that are severely affected by climate change, such as drought and saltwater intrusion, namely the South Central Coast, Binh Thuan, Ninh Thuan provinces, the Central Highlands, and coastal areas in Mekong Delta provinces, have actively changed the structure of crops and animals, instead of growing rice.

In 2018, the MARD registered to protect the trademark of rice domestically and internationally. The World Intellectual Property Organization issued a code for the trademark certifying the Vietnamese rice brand and forwarded the registration dossier to 20 designated countries and territories, including Australia, Brunei, Switzerland, China, the EU, Indonesia, Japan, Cambodia, South Korea, Laos, Liechtenstein, Mexico, Norway, New Zealand, the OAPI, the Philippines, Russia, Singapore, Thailand, and the US.

According to the Institute for Policy and Strategy for Agriculture and Rural Development, in 2018, the average cost of rice production was about VND18.05 million per hectare, and farmers profited over 75 percent of production costs. To export 3.5 million tons of rice, Vietnam will need 3.3 million hectares of paddy fields by 2030, 760,000 hectares lower than that in the present, but still ensuring domestic rice supply. For the export target of 4.5 million tons of rice, the country will need 3.56 million hectares of paddy fields by 2030. Thus, the agricultural sector can reduce 616,000 hectares of paddy fields and still ensure domestic consumption. Inefficient rice-growing areas will be converted to other agricultural activities with higher income.

The master plan on the use of rice land was approved. However, it has not been carried out strictly and thoroughly. The conversion of rice land in disadvantaged areas remains sluggish, and the areas of rice-growing land converted to growing fruit trees and other more efficient crops are not large.

According to the Department of Crop Production, besides ensuring food security, the department ensures that the criteria of value, quality, and increasing income for farmers will replace the criteria of quantity. Especially, enterprises take the initiative in copyrights on seeds, seed production for raw material growing areas, the direction of production techniques, technical supervision, purchasing, drying, and processing.

The entire production process must be applied science, technology, and mechanization to respond to climate change. The State continues to support the completion of inter-regional traffic, irrigation systems, freshwater reservoirs to actively respond to saltwater intrusion and drought and warehouses to reduce storage losses and logistics costs.