Vietnam has sufficient supplies to export 7.3 million tonnes of rice in 2012, officials said at a recent meeting held in the Cuu Long (Mekong) Delta province of Dong Thap.

The meeting aimed to review results of the 2011-12 winter-spring crop.

However, to promote the export potential, the Vietnam Food Association (VFA) should help its members find buyers for the rice, said Bui Ba Bong, Deputy Minister for Agriculture and Rural Development.

Bong asked VFA to launch a campaign to build brand names for Vietnamese rice, especially those for Vietnamese fragrant rice and high-quality rice, including the "Vietnam Jasmine Rice".

He said a strong brand name can help Vietnam boost its export of fragrant rice from the current 500,000 tonnes to 1 million tonnes annually and can also help to promote the export of "super high-quality" rice.

He also asked provincial departments of Agriculture and Rural Development to carry out plans to reduce the area dedicated to cultivating the low-quality IR 50404 variety.

A slump in rice export, especially of less than 6.5 million tonnes per year, would affect farmers' living standards, he added.

With 3.5 million tonnes of rice produced from the last winter – spring crop, plus 1.1 million tonnes of rice in reserves from last year, Vietnam now has 4.6 million tonnes of rice for export, said VFA Chairman Truong Thanh Phong.

Phong said Vietnam 's rice export was estimated at 1 to 1.1 million tonnes in the first quarter and from 1.5 million tonnes to 2 million tonnes in the second quarter of the year.

Rice prices were expected to rise in the near future, with sharp increases in the prices of fragrant and high-quality rice and lower increments in the prices of low-quality IR 50404 would be a little bit higher, Phong added.

According to the Ministry of Agriculture and Rural Development's Cultivation Department, the Cuu Long ( Mekong ) Delta has 1,578 ha under rice cultivation with an average yield of 6.72 tonnes per hectare for the 2011-12 winter-spring crop.

The South-eastern region has over 120,000 ha under rice cultivation, with an average yield of 5.58 tonnes per ha.

In the last winter-spring crop, the Cuu Long ( Mekong ) Delta produced 11.27 million tonnes of paddy compared with 11.16 million tonnes in the 2010 – 11 winter-spring crop.

The large-scale rice cultivation model and application of VietGAP (Vietnamese Goods Agriculture Practices) standards have attracted more and more farmers and organisations, the meeting heard.

The department reported that rice varieties have been improved, helping better the yield and quality of rice produced in the region.-VNA