Vietnam needs to improve its rice quality, build a trademark and reduce production costs to help its rice overcome difficulties and meet the increasing demands of the global market.

This year, one million tonnes of rice from the summer-autumn crop was scheduled to be stockpiled by July 31, but only 80-85 percent of the target was fulfilled.

As proposed by the Ministry of Agriculture and Rural Development (MARD), the Prime Minister agreed to extend rice procurement to August 15 in a bid to stabilise rice prices during the main harvest period in the Mekong Delta.

According to MARD’s Plant Cultivation Department, the region’s summer-autumn crop covers 1.68 million hectares, producing more than 9 million tonnes of unprocessed rice, or 4.6 million tonnes of husked rice. About 680,000 hectares will be harvested each month during the main season, which falls in July and August.

The latest statistics show that as of the end of July, about 800,000 hectares of rice have not been harvested, so ending the rice procurement programme at this time would not benefit farmers in some regional provinces like Long An, Kien Giang, Tra Vinh and Soc Trang.

At present, rice prices in Mekong Delta localities have gone up by 500-700 VND per kilogramme from the level at the beginning of the harvest, since businesses are accelerating their procurement for stockpile and commercial purposes.

The Vietnam Food Association reports that aromatic rice is being sold at healthy prices. This kind of rice accounted for 12.6 percent of Vietnam’s total rice exports in the first half of 2013, up 77.8 percent from a year earlier.

Nonetheless, many businesses complained that the quality of aromatic rice is not high, due to the cultivation of a wide range of aromatic long grain varieties such as Jasmine, OM 4900, 4218, 2517, VD and ST.

At a meeting on rice procurement and export in July, Director of the An Giang Import-Export Company Nguyen Van Tien said that instead of cultivating lots of varieties, localities should focus on several key ones for export.

He proposed that the agricultural sector work with research institutes on producing certain varieties that can be grown on a large scale for the long term, so that rice is produced in large amounts with the same quality, helping create Vietnam’s own rice trademark.

Le Thanh Tung, an official from the Plant Cultivation Department, said farmers would be willing to supply the rice types in line with exporters’ demands if the businesses place their order to farmers with commitments to buy all the products.

However, he said not many rice exporting companies have done this until now. Their procurement is made mainly through trade mediators. The linkage between farmers, rice processors and exporters is still weak.

In addition, many participants said that as selling prices are decided by the global market, farmers should try to reduce production costs in order to ensure profits.

To address the problem, experts say guidance should be provided to farmers in how to apply new cultivation techniques and make good use of agricultural materials, while the prices of fertiliser and pesticide prices should be stabilised.-VNA