Mekong Delta undergoing agriculture transformation

13:00 | 02/06/2020 Society

(VEN) - The Mekong Delta’s agricultural economy required urgent transformation in the context of climate change, international economic integration, and adverse market effects of the Covid-19 pandemic in order to improve farmers’ income and promote development.

mekong delta undergoing agriculture transformation
The Mekong Delta develops salinity tolerant rice varieties adapted to climate change

Bumper rice crop

With 1.5 million hectares of rice, the Mekong Delta plays a key role in ensuring national food security. According to a report by the Ministry of Agriculture and Rural Development, in 2020, drought and saltwater intrusion in the region has intensified, but the 2019-2020 winter-spring crop began one month earlier than usual and surpassed expectations.

Mekong Delta provinces planted rice on 1.54 million hectares of land, reaching yield of an estimated 6.98 tonnes per hectare (up 201kg/ha from the previous winter-spring crop) and an output of more than 10.7 million tonnes. In Can Tho City and Dong Thap and An Giang provinces, farmers reached a high yield, sold rice for VND5,300/kg or more, and made a profit rate of 30-40 percent.

In the 2020 summer-autumn crop, Mekong Delta provinces will cultivate about 1.5 million hectares of rice, expecting to reach a yield of 5.66 tonnes/ha and an output of 8.7 million tonnes. They have already planted about 272,000ha of rice in March and an additional 600,000ha in fresh water areas of Dong Thap Muoi, the Long Xuyen quadrangle and Tien and Hau River areas in April. Rice will be grown in the remaining areas in May and June. Small floods are forecast for the 2020 autumn-winter crop meaning that localities will plant only 750,000ha of rice with an estimated yield of almost 5.54 tonnes/ha and an output of more than 4.1 million tonnes in this period. Ca Mau, Bac Lieu, Kien Giang and Soc Trang provinces intended to grow about 176,000ha of rice with an estimated output of 845,000 tonnes in the 2020 tenth-month crop.

While the Covid-19 pandemic is severely affecting and disrupting all production and trading activities, the Mekong Delta’s bumper winter-spring rice crop has met national food security demand and provided rice for export. The delta provinces are expected to produce more than four million hectares of rice with an average yield of almost 6.1 tonnes/ha and an estimated output of 24.3 million tonnes in 2020, up 63,000 tonnes from the previous year.

Economist Dr. Tran Huu Hiep said that in recent years, agricultural economy transformation has become an urgent need for the Mekong Delta in the context of climate change, international economic integration, and adverse market changes caused by the Covid-19 pandemic, to not only improve farmers’ income but also promote development.

In accordance with major government policies, Mekong Delta provinces and cities have been strengthening connectivity and cooperation in high-tech agriculture development. They have replicated value chain-oriented and ‘big field’ production models pertaining to development of the cooperative economy and complete production chains (including raw material supply, production and sales). Localities have also been cooperating with each other in planning crops and plant and animal structures in accordance with market demand.

Adaptation to climate change

Provinces in the region are being urged to adopt short and long-term roadmaps for sustainable development, strengthen the application of science and technology in industry and services, and restructure plant and livestock farming to maximize efficiency. Mekong Delta provinces and cities are expected to contribute to Vietnam’s US$42-billion farm produce export target for 2020, and take opportunities provided by new-generation free trade agreements (FTAs), especially the EU-Vietnam Free Trade Agreement (EVFTA) coming into force later this year.

The Ministry of Agriculture and Rural Development is working with the Ministry of Planning and Investment and other ministries and agencies to prepare a master plan for the Mekong Delta, under which the regional agricultural production structure will be transformed to reduce the proportion of rice production and increase that of fruits and fisheries after 2020.

Tran Cong Thang, Director of the Institute of Policy and Strategy for Agricultural and Rural Development (IPSARD) of the Ministry of Agriculture and Rural Development said it is necessary to consider fresh, brackish and salt water all as resources, and adapt irrigation infrastructure to meet production demands of production, agriculture restructuring and people’s daily lives. Apart from accelerating drought and saltwater intrusion control projects, the agricultural sector will improve and develop irrigation systems, dredge canals, build pumping stations on canals, and construct fishery infrastructure to control tides and saltwater intrusion.

Economist Dr. Tran Huu Hiep said Vietnam built projects to minimize the effects of adverse weather and climate change, while the trend is to seek adaptation to natural conditions. Ministries and localities should focus on agriculture restructuring with climate smart irrigation solutions enabling adaptation to natural conditions, and exploit advantages offered by changes in drought, saline intrusion and the changing water flows. The adaptation process must be reviewed, updated and adjusted, especially production and irrigation and transport infrastructure plans, for the delta, sub-regions and sectors.

While traditional markets of Vietnamese agricultural products, including China and the EU, are severely affected by the Covid-19 pandemic, finding new markets and developing domestic supply chains has become a necessity. 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 export demand.

Thanh Thanh