Farmers in the Mekong Delta are harvesting a bumper autumn-winter rice crop of 3.3 million tonnes, or 930,000 tonnes higher than last year, a Government official told a conference in An Giang province on Dec. 5.

Pham Van Du, deputy head of the agriculture ministry's Cultivation Department, said 671,763 ha have been planted this year, 160,228ha higher than last year.

Average productivity of the autumn-winter crop in the south have risen by 0.28 tonnes a ha to more than 4.92 tonnes, with An Giang and Soc Trang having yields of 6-6.5 tonnes, he said.

"The largest areas under the third rice crop this year are in An Giang with 131,000 ha (up 18,295ha), Kien Giang with 53,000ha (up 39,000ha), Dong Thap with 98,858ha (up 38,286ha), and Can Tho with 54,000ha (up 20,008 ha).

"At the current prices of more than 6,000 VND per kilogramme, farmers in the delta can earn around 11 million VND per ha per crop.

Some 91 percent of farming households growing autumn-winter rice have made profits while only 1 percent suffered losses.

But to ensure a higher efficiency, in future provinces should have better cultivation plans and dyke system before the flood season arrived, Du said.

This year floods in the delta destroyed 21,451ha of autumn-winter rice and breached 1,455km of dykes.

"Building a solid dyke system in the region would allow a third crop every year. Provinces in the delta need to jointly devise a detailed plan on how they should plant the third rice crop of the year."

The department has already set a target of between 600,000 and 700,000ha for next year's autumn-winter rice crop in the delta.

At the conference, several delegates highlighted the success achieved by delta farmers by adopting the large-scale rice model.

According to the department, the total area that delta provinces earmarked for large-scale rice fields during the earlier summer-autumn crop this year was 7,803ha, or 93.22 percent of the target, with 6,400 farmer households pooling together their lands.

The vast field helped cut production costs by 120 VND to 600 VND per kilogramme.
In the delta, 12 out of the 13 provinces adopted the model.

The additional profit from these fields was around 7.5 million VND per ha in Tra Vinh, 2.5 million VND in Can Tho, 3 million VND in Long An, and 2.4 million VND in Tay Ninh.

The department plans to scale up the area to 20,000ha for the 2011-12 winter-spring crop and 10 times that number by the end of 2013./.