A number of enterprises have teamed up with research institutes and agricultural promotion centres for pilot schemes to support farmers to shift their low-yield paddy fields to corn and other high-yield crops, a local newspaper reported.

According to the Saigon Times Daily, the enterprises and organisations have joined forces after the Government has a policy to provide finances for farmers to buy seeds to replace their poor paddy production with high-yield crops. As a result, corn is proved as one of the alternatives for farmers.

Syngenta Vietnam Co., Ltd. said in a statement that the company has cooperated with the Institute of Agricultural Science for Southern Vietnam to develop a model in support of corn production on 20 hectares of former paddy field in My Hanh Bac commune, Duc Hoa district in Long An province.

The company said one hectare could bring average output of 8-10 tonnes of corn and farmers could gain profit of 8.4 million VND per hectare higher than rice production if a kilogramme of fresh corn is sold at 4,000 VND.

Dekalb Vietnam has worked with the Agricultural Encouragement Centre of An Phu district in An Giang province over a pilot programme on crop change. Initial results indicated farmers could yield 10.8-12.3 tonnes on one hectare for two harvest seasons of a year and earn 50 million VND per hectare, including profit of nearly 24 million VND. This profit is three times higher than that farmers can obtain from rice production.

According to the Cultivation Department under the Ministry of Agriculture and Rural Development, some provinces in the Mekong Delta such as Dong Thap, An Giang, Tra Vinh, Soc Trang and Long An have carried out programmes to replace rice with corn to help farmers improve earnings.

Nguyen Thanh Tung, Director of the Agricultural Encouragement Centre of Long An province, said the province considers corn as the most important option in the programme, followed by sesame and peanut.

Tung said more corn would be grown on low-productivity paddy fields and the firm Ecofarm has invested in a complex of facilities to dry and process corn in preparation for buying all the corn produced by local farmers.

The Ministry of Agriculture and Rural Development estimated around 112,000 hectares of low-yield paddy field in the Mekong Delta will make room for corn and soybean farming. To facilitate fast changes, the Government will provide farmers with 2 million VND to buy seeds for each hectare.

The Government issued the policy on the fact that rice farmers have not been able to obtain a 30 percent profit margin as targeted and Vietnam has to spend 4.5 billion USD importing corn, soybean and other materials for animal feed production every year.

The ministry expected shifting from rice to corn and soybean will help the country reduce imports.

The Institute of Agricultural Science for Southern Vietnam believed the Government’s financial support plus the close cooperation between enterprises and institutes will encourage more rice farmers to turn their resources to high-yield crops.

“We encourage farmers to change low-productivity rice production to other crops to improve their incomes,” said Le Quy Kha, deputy rector of the institute.-VNA