The Mekong Delta is harvesting a bumper summer-autumn rice crop though the weather has been unfavourable, according to the Ministry of Agriculture and Rural Development.

More than 9 million tonnes are expected to be harvested, 143,000 tonnes higher than a year ago because of increased yields.

The country's rice bowl planted rice on more than 1.6 million hectares, fractionally down from last year's summer-autumn crop.

But farmers are likely to be hit by unstable demand and low prices. Speaking at a seminar in Kien Giang Province last week, Deputy Minister of Agriculture and Rural Development Le Quoc Doanh said despite some achievements, rice production in the delta faces many problems like unstable rice demand that need to be resolved.

The region should focus on improving rice quality and increase export value, he said.

In the summer-autumn crop, average-quality rice varieties are grown on 25 percent of the area, according to statistics from local agriculture departments though the ministry's Plant Cultivation Department has warned it should not exceed 10 percent.

Next the delta plans to grow the autumn-winter rice crop on 827,000ha, 12,256ha more than a year earlier, mostly high-quality varieties.

In Vinh Long Province, for instance, high-quality varieties will make up 80 percent of the output.

The autumn-winter crop is sown during the rainy season and harvested in mostly dry weather, meaning its quality is superior to that of the summer-autumn rice. It is also easier to sell because the output is not large. But the crop faces risks like the annual flooding in the Mekong River.

Mai Van Nhin, deputy chairman of the KienGiang Province People's Committee, said the delta provinces should schedule their sowing properly to avoid the floods.

Upstream provinces should carefully calculate the release of flood water to avoid losses in downstream provinces, he said. All provinces should regularly consolidate their dykes and irrigation works to ensure safety for the autumn-winter rice.

Doanh said the Plant Protection Department should improve its forecast of rice diseases.

The National Agriculture Extension Centre needed to propagate farming techniques on the media, he said.-VNA