Maize imports in the first five months of 2015 are on the rise but rice exports are on the decline, according to figures from the Ministry of Agriculture and Rural Development.

Vietnam imported 2.87 million tonnes of maize, worth 622 million USD, up by 30.3 percent in volume, and an increase of 16.8 percent in value compared with the same period last year.

The country also imported 700,000 tonnes of beans and other materials for processing of animal feed worth nearly 1.4 billion USD.

Meanwhile, exports of rice from Vietnam over the same period reached 2.08 million tonnes, worth 875 million USD, a decline of 255,000 tonnes in volume and 138 million USD in values over 2014.

In all, the value of imported animal feed and other materials for the food processing industry in the first five months amounted to nearly 2.3 billion USD, nearly triple the total value of rice exports over the same period.

Authorities have been urged to re-structure the country's planting systems, aiming to reduce material imports while easing the pressure on rice consumption.

The programme to re-structure rice plantation to other crops including maize began in 2013 when the country's rice exports were stagnant.

However, the programme has faced challenges in many localities across the country.

The slump in the world's farm produce prices, including maize prices, has caused local agricultural products to be less competitive than imported goods.

Maize prices have dropped to less than 5,000 VND per kg since the end of 2014, making maize growers' profits lower than rice growers'.

It has forced many farmers to return to rice cultivation.

Huynh The Nang, Chairman of Vietnamese Food Association, said that global demand for rice had changed greatly compared to five to 10 years ago. Rice growing countries have increasingly raised their output, while rice buyers have also been promoting rice production.

"It's time for Vietnam to re-consider rice production and exports with an aim to raise the added value of this product and a bigger effort to change rice into more necessary crops," he said.-VNA