Authorities in the Cuu Long (Mekong) Delta will help farmers expand soybean-rice fields by providing them with financing and training.

In Vietnam, soybean output meets only 10 per cent of demand. More than 1.2 million tonnes of soybean are imported each year, according to the Plant Cultivation Department.

Last year, the Delta cultivated 2,900ha of soybeans, mostly in An Giang, Dong Thap and Vinh Long provinces and Can Tho City, according to the Ministry of Agriculture and Rural Development (MARD).

Delta farmers plant two crops of soybeans a year, the winter-spring crop and the spring-summer crop.
Soybeans and rice have the same three-month cultivation period.

In Dong Thap Province, the per hectare yield reached 2.3 tonnes of soybeans last year, bringing a profit of 15-20 million VND (714-952 USD) to farmers, while profits on rice totalled 12.5 million VND per hectare.

Speaking at a seminar held in Dong Thap Province this week, Pham Van Du, deputy head of the department, said the Delta had untapped potential in soybean cultivation.

However, seminar participants pointed out that soybean farming in the Delta had declined in recent years, from 8,932ha in 2009 to 2,967ha last year.

Many farmers switched to other crops, like corn, that have higher profit potential.

Phan Thi Yen Nhi, director of the An Giang Department of Agriculture and Rural Development, said that low prices and unstable outlets for soybeans were the major problems for farmers.

Participants at the seminar recommended rotating rice and soybeans in fields, saying the soybean plants helped prevent rice diseases.

In addition, the leaves and stems of soybeans are good organic fertiliser for paddy fields.

Seminar attendees urged ministry officials to develop more high-quality strains and build more soybean processing plants.

The Plant Cultivation Department said that An Giang Province, which has the country's largest rice cultivation area, should expand its rice-soybean fields.

Dong Thap and Vinh Long provinces, which have planted soybeans for many years, should follow suit, it said.

The department would work with the Delta to develop five to seven large-scale soybean fields this year.
Bui Ba Bong, MARD's deputy minister, asked the Delta provinces and Can Tho to develop detailed policies on soybean farming techniques, plant strains and financing.

He pointed out that large-scale soybean fields in Dong Thap Province had helped guarantee outlets and higher incomes for farmers. -VNA