The Mekong Delta, the country’s main granary that produces more than half of the national rice output, is struggling to find ways to achieve fast but sustainable development.

The region has 3.21 million ha of land suitable for agricultural production, including 1.85 million ha of rice fields, 220,000 ha of orchards and 630,000 ha of aquatic farms in addition to 220,000 ha of land under industrial trees and around 390,000 ha of forests.

Well aware of the region’s role in food security and rice export, the Party and Government have long implemented a series of policies to nurture socio-economic development in the region, with mechanization and industrialisation of agricultural production a major focus.

These policies have brought about remarkable results, which could be seen in the fact that Mekong Delta now produces 52 percent of the national rice output and 90 percent of the total rice export.

The region, which comprises of 12 provinces and one centrally-run city with a total population of 18 million, also provides 58 percent of the country’s total aquatic products output and accounts for 60 percent of national aquatic export turnover.

Around 70 percent of fruit supply in the country comes from Mekong Delta’s orchards.

However, experts say behind these figures many problems still exist, threatening the region’s sustainable development.

The economic structure relies heavily on small-scale agriculture, without clear planning. Agricultural growth is mainly based on acreage expansion and increased input such as fertilizer and pesticide, while hi-tech and commercial production remains under-developed.

Furthermore, despite the vast variety of farm produce, the region is yet to develop a strong processing industry, greatly limiting local products’ competitiveness due to their low added value.

The rate of mechanization of agricultural production is low, at 40 percent, thus production cost and post-harvest losses remain high.

A major problem for the region is its poor infrastructure, particularly the water and land transport networks.

Human resources are another weakness of the region, where a majority of the local workforce does not receive any training.

At a recent workshop on the region’s development, Nguyen Phong Quang, deputy head of the Steering Committee for the South-western Region stressed the need to make clear planning for agriculture, while accelerating the restructuring of the regional economy in the direction of large-scale farm production.

Prof. Bui Chi Buu, former Director of the Institute of Agricultural Sciences for Southern Region, recommended more investment in agricultural science and technology research and application. He also said faster mechanization and electrification will help increase the region’s productivity as well as product quality and competitiveness.

In addition, experts urged the Government to issue specific policies to attract investment in developing three main products of the Mekong Delta, which are rice, aquatic products and fruit.

The region also needs more Government help in infrastructure building, credit and human resource training, they said.-VNA