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Mekong Delta importing rice as usual?   2008-11-12 - Viet Nam News

Mr. Nguyen Tri Ngoc

VietNamNet Bridge – Head of the Cultivation Agency under the Ministry of Agriculture and Rural Development Nguyen Tri Ngoc spoke about the inundation of Cambodian rice in the Mekong Delta, Vietnam’s rice granary.


What do you think about the absurdity in the Mekong Delta, where Cambodian rice is flooding the market?


It is normal, like Vietnamese rice also overflows into Thailand. This is the nature of the market mechanism. Traders are buying low-quality rice of Vietnam to sell to Thailand at higher prices. Similarly, when rice prices in the Mekong Delta are higher, Cambodian rice overflows in.


It seems problematic that paddy prices fell to VND2,500/kg but farmers couldn’t sell their rice, meanwhile Cambodian rice is imported into the market. What is your opinion about this?


That is a different matter. Vietnamese farmers have been pursuing rice productivity and are not interested in high-quality rice. Meanwhile, Thailand and Cambodia have one rice crop per year and they only grow long-term paddy varieties of high quality so their rice sells easily in Vietnam.


But we should not follow their path because Vietnam’s fields are limited while the population is high so we have to do intensive farming to produce high outputs of rice. This is Vietnam’s goal. This seems to be irrational but it is very rational.


Why don’t we grow some high-quality rice?


Vietnam is implementing a programme to produce one million tonnes of high-quality rice a year, mainly in the Mekong Delta.


Why are we only just implementing this plan now?


We have been conducting a programme to grow high-quality rice for export for a long time.


You said that programme has been conducted for a long time, but why have supermarkets nationwide been selling Thai rice for many years and why now is the country’s rice granary being overrun by Cambodian rice?


We need a certain amount of time to do it because the process from the change of farmers’ awareness to action takes a long time.


Rice pouring in from Cambodia is hurting farmers in the Mekong Delta.

Thai rice has been in Vietnam for tens of years. So this process hasn’t been going slowly?


Thai rice has been in Vietnam for a long time but it has appeared sporadically. Low-quality Vietnamese rice also goes to Thailand.


Forecasting is the duty of state agencies, including the Ministry of Agriculture and Rural Development. Is the problem that these agencies can’t work out directions for farmers and let Thai and Cambodian rice overflow into Vietnam?


We have done that already but when the world demand for rice increases, farmers still pursue their customs: growing rice of high productivity and ignoring recommendations.


Has the Ministry of Agriculture and Rural Development suggested to the government to ask provinces to devote some areas to high-quality rice?


The ministry submitted a plan on agricultural products five years ago.


But farmers lack information and their knowledge about the market is limited so state agencies must guide them, isn’t that right?


The Cultivation Agency’s orientation is very clear. For example, we called for farmers to absolutely not grow the MIR 50404 paddy variety, but they still planted it.


The Prime Minister instructed companies to buy rice from Mekong Delta farmers at over VND4,000 per kilo but the price fell to VND2,500. What could you say about this?


I don’t know what to say about it. When they (rice traders) faced difficulties, they called for the government’s assistance. When the government faces difficulties, they don’t share difficulties with the government.


Why don’t they follow the Prime Minister’s guidance? What is the problem?


There is nothing to say if they had obeyed the guidance. It is normal for Cambodian rice to run into Vietnam and Vietnamese rice goes to Thailand. What is important is the level and timely adjustments made by the state.


Did the Ministry of Agriculture and Rural Development report on this to the government?


We can’t forbid trade.


So we just have to watch and can do nothing as far as planning and strategy?


First of all, guidance for this winter-spring crop is maximally reducing the area of low-quality rice. But it depends on the organisation and implementation of this policy.


So we can’t be sure whether this policy will be carried out?


We have to promote it among farmers, define planning and have assistance measures, for example providing farmers with high-quality rice varieties. This depends on local governments.


We have not had assistance for farmers so far?


Yes, a lot.


But why have farmers not been keen on this policy?


You ask why. Many things exist and will always exist buy why they exist will never be answered.


So the price for rice will stay low?


You have to ask the Ministry of Industry and Trade.


The Ministry of Agriculture and Rural Development also has part of the responsibility, doesn’t it?


The Ministry of Agriculture and Rural Development always says that farmers’ rice must be bought entirely at the prices that brings profit for farmers of at least 40%, or at least VND4,500/kg.


But the price is now very low so farmers are only suffering losses, is it a tense situation?


The government and the state have to take care of it.

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