Ranking fifth in rice production and second in rice exports in the world, Vietnam may still face instability in food security due to the impact of an increasing population and climate change.

Acknowledging this risk, the country considers food security as its leading concern.

According to the Ministry of Agriculture and Rural Development (MARD)’s Farming Department, thanks to the application of scientific and technological advancements and new rice strains, the country’s rice output hit over 35 million tonnes a year, contributing to ensuring a rice export volume of 4.5-5 million tonnes a year. In 2009, the figures were 38.9 million tonnes and 5.8 million tonnes, respectively.

These achievements helped Vietnam rapidly reduce the household poverty rate.

However, the agency found that a great challenge for food security in Vietnam is the decrease in the area available for rice planting to make room for other crops, aquaculture, housing, industrial zones and transport infrastructure.

It is estimated that by 2020, around 600,000 ha of cultivated land will be used to develop industry and infrastructure. As a result, the total rice growing area will fall from the current level of 4.1 million hectares to 3.5 million hectares.

In addition, the impact of climate change and epidemics has affected agricultural production, particularly rice production. At the country’s key rice-growing areas, including the Mekong and Red river deltas, acreages for rice that have either be submerged, or suffering from draught or salt-water contamination have increased. Epidemics in rice fields have also caused great losses, to the tune of about 1 million tonnes of rice a year in the Mekong delta.

Moreover, the country is facing the pressure of a growing population, leading to an increase in the demand for food.

It is predicted that by 2020, Vietnam’s population will hit 100 million, and as much as 120 million by 2030.

According to the General Statistic Office, about 6.7 percent of the country’s households lack food. Approximately 1 million people in the mountainous regions do not have enough rice, so they have to use maize and cassava as major food sources.

Some agricultural experts said the shortage of food is caused by the difference in farming conditions and the poor regulation of food between regions in the country.

Nguyen Tri Ngoc, Director of the Farming Department, said that farmers play an important role in ensuring food security, but have always been hard hit by the impacts of natural disasters, epidemics and price fluctuations. He stressed the need to have a long-term, master strategy on rice production to ensure benefits for both the nation and the people.

The Ministry of Agriculture and Rural Development has submitted a food security plan through 2020 with a vision for 2030 to the Government with top priority placed on maintaining 4 million ha of land for rice in 2010 in order to ensure an annual output of 40 million tones of rice in the coming years.

Ngoc went on to say that ensuring rice acreage was one of the targets of the food security plan, with the aim being to put an end to hunger by 2012, boosting the rate of food security for groups at high risk of hunger, improving daily nutritional standards for the people and reducing the malnutrition rate among children under-five./.