The Mekong Delta province of Dong Thap plans to boost rice and tra catfish production in a move to double the income of local farmers by 2020.

The Government and the Ministry of Agriculture and Rural Development chose the heavily-based agricultural province as the first to pilot the national agricultural restructuring plan. Dong Thap produces the most tra catfish and ranks third for rice production. Agriculture accounts for 36 percent of GDP.

The province aimed to achieve a growth rate of more than 5 percent by 2020 and reduce the number of poor households by two percentage points annually, according to Provincial Party Committee Secretary Le Minh Hoan. In addition to rice and tra catfish, the province would focus on mangoes, bonsai trees and poultry.

Under the project, rice-growing land would be divided in two. One 10,000ha area with the annual yield of 1.5 million tonnes would provide rice for export to key markets such as East Asia, China and the EU, while another 70,000ha area with the annual yield of 1 million tonnes would provide rice for African and Southeast Asian markets. A third 1,500ha area would be set aside for fish farming, yielding 300,000 tonnes of fish per year.

Chairman of the provincial People's Committee Nguyen Van Duong said the province had made several requests to the Government, including subsidies for farmers, piloting public private partnerships in developing agricultural and rural infrastructure, building industrial-services zones in the intensive cultivation areas and developing key agricultural commodity value chains.

He also said that the province would create favourable conditions for enterprises investing in agricultural development when it came to obtaining capital, premises and human resources.

The Republic of Korea's Rural Community Corporation (KRC), the Sustainable Trade Initiative (IDH) and provincial leaders signed a cooperation agreement in the fields of rice cultivation and aquaculture breeding at a conference on agricultural restructuring for Dong Thap province held in Hanoi on November 25. Under the agreement, the KRC will provide capital to build a 2,000ha rice cultivation area and the IDH will supply technical support for aquaculture farming.

Delegates suggested that the province clarify how it would boost the value of the five key products, citing tra catfish fat as an example. China and Japan currently buy this product from Vietnam, process it as supplemental food and export it to Vietnam at a higher cost.-VNA