Cultivation of Japanese rice varieties has expanded rapidly in the northern provinces of Thai Binh and Nam Dinh due to the high profits they fetch, but farmers are still learning how to grow what is an alien crop.

By the end of last year Thai Binh had 1,286 hectares under Japanese rice, four times the area in 2010.

"There are 10 companies cooperating with farmers to grow the rice and they are buying back all of it," Le Van Thang, Deputy Director of the provincial Department of Agriculture and Rural Development, was quoted as saying by Thoi Bao Kinh te Viet Nam (Vietnam Economic Times) newspaper.

The rice varieties include Hana Akita Komach, Koshihirari, J01, J02, all of which are highly nutritious and are considered very good for children and women after delivery.

"All Japanese rice is grown for export," Thang said.

For this year's spring crop, Dong Phong commune in Thai Binh's Dong Hung district identified 35 hectares for growing Japanese rice by 200 farming households.

"This crop I cultivated 1.5 hectares," Phan Thi Nguyen, one of the farmers taking part in the programme, said.

"When signing the contract with the company, I got the seeds and fertilisers. After harvest, the produce was bought at a price of 22,000 VND per kilogram.

"I feel safe and do not need to worry anything like production expenses or falling prices; only focus on farming."

According to Thang, Japanese rice strains are totally different from traditional local strains because they are meant to grow in cold weather.

The export price for a tonne is 800–1,500 USD, two to four times the prices Vietnamese rice varieties fetch, he said.-VNA