06:00 | 20/06/2020 Society
(VEN) - Agriculture in the Mekong Delta has suffered three major disasters within a short period, including extreme climatic effects such as drought and saltwater intrusion, animal husbandry disease and the ongoing Covid-19 pandemic. In a bid to boost economic recovery, the 12 regional provinces are seeking to stabilize growth and increase agro-fishery exports.
Rice production in the Mekong Delta has enabled the Mekong Delta region to overcome natural disaster and epidemic
The importance of rice
According to the Ministry of Agriculture and Rural Development (MARD)’s Department of Crop Production, provinces in the Mekong Delta sowed the 2019-20 winter-spring rice crop on an area of 1.54 million hectares, down 63,000 ha from normal years, with an estimated output of about 10.7 million tonnes of rice, a drop of 118,000 tonnes. The crop was planted a month earlier than usual to avoid saline intrusion and drought. In addition, favorable weather conditions helped rice grow well, with high yields and high quality. In all, despite the early, deep and prolonged saltwater and drought, local farmers enjoyed a bumper winter-spring rice crop and high prices.
Since early May, 2020 provinces in the region have sowed more than 1.5 million hectares of rice for the summer-autumn crop, aiming to collect 8.7 million tonnes of paddy for domestic consumption and export. Farmers were advised to accelerate sowing 474,000 ha in May due to the decreasing saltwater level and finish the rest in June.
The crop conversion area for the 2019 winter-spring season in the southern provinces is estimated at more than 41,000 ha, including 30,000 ha of annual plants, nearly 9,000 ha of fruit trees and over 700 ha of aquaculture. The major crops, meant to replace rice, are short-term crops, such as corn, peanuts, soybeans, sesame, legumes, and fruit trees such as oranges, grapefruits, mangoes and dragon fruit.
Some areas that have switched to growing fruit trees such as orange, grapefruit, tangerine, longan, mango, dragon fruit and durian are doing particularly well due to their economic efficiency.
To ensure national food security for domestic demand and export amid the Covid-19 impact, the Mekong Delta region will grow 750,000 ha of rice in the autumn-winter season this year with an estimated output of 4.1 million tonnes.
At a recent tele-conference on boosting agricultural production amid the Covid-19 outbreak, Minister of Agriculture and Rural Development Nguyen Xuan Cuong said Vietnam’s agriculture this year faced not only the effects of the Covid-19 pandemic and extreme climate, but also remnants of the African swine fever and EU restrictions on Vietnamese seafood products.
Despite the difficulties, agricultural production in the Mekong Delta still performed favorably, especially in terms of rice production, which served as the basis for the economy to overcome natural disaster and epidemic. This year’s historic saline intrusion and drought were more severe than the ones of 2016, but thanks to early warnings and government direction, the damage has been lighter. Despite the many difficulties, rice production achieved satisfactory results to ensure food security and even keep a reserve for exports.
Mekong Delta economic expert, Dr. Tran Huu Hiep said under new circumstances and facing new challenges, Vietnam must adjust overall regional planning, especially of traffic, production and irrigation systems. “Currently we are geared to disaster limitation solutions rather than to change. The trend now is to adapt and minimize damage,” Hiep said.
Government Resolution 120/NQ-CP on climate resilience and sustainable development of the Mekong Delta region directed a shift from mere agriculture production to development of diversified agricultural industry to meet market demand, and from quantity based to quality based development.
Vietnam’s agricultural sector has set a US$42 billion target turnover for its agro-forestry-fishery export this year. To achieve this target, the MARD has directed localities to adjust rice production to minimize the impact of climate change, focusing on exploring large markets, building concentrated production regions, and planting out-of-season fruit trees in southern provinces.
The demand for food and foodstuffs is expected to boom after the pandemic is controlled, and the agricultural sector should prepare to meet that demand, including for exports.