Ensuring the purchase of farm produce was among pressing issues that National Assembly deputies questioned Minister of Agriculture and Rural Development Cao Duc Phat about on June 11 during the parliament’s ongoing ninth sitting.

The minister said as Vietnam promotes international integration, its crop structure needs to be aligned with global trends.

Meanwhile, his ministry will focus on strong produce varieties in Vietnam while helping farmers increase their product quality and cut down prices to ensure the purchase of farm produce under any circumstances.

Support offered in recent years will be maintained, such as assisting farmers in improving product competitiveness, stabilising prices and taking out concessional loans to minimise losses.

The ministry will continue efforts to tackle difficulties facing agricultural businesses and develop preserving and processing technologies, Phat said.

At the session, deputies raised queries on the coordination between State agencies, businesses, scientists and farmers, which has fallen behind expectations.

Minister Phat said although coordination has been common in milk and sugar production, it is still weak in products that are not necessarily processed, like rice. In 2014, more than 100 companies committed to working with farmers to grow and buy rice for 72,000 hectares in the Mekong Delta, but the collaboration was realised on only 45,000 hectares.

He blamed the insufficient coordination partly on the shortage of agricultural businesses, which he said are the key players in the linkage.

The limited number of cooperatives in rural areas, especially the Mekong Delta – Vietnam’s rice production hub – has also made it harder for businesses to work with farmers since cooperatives act as intermediaries, he added.

The official underlined the decisive role of local authorities in the success of this affiliation, noting that they should step up communications to encourage farmers to coordinate, provide support policies for enterprises and facilitate the establishment of cooperatives.

Regarding farmers’ lack of interest in rice cultivation, Phat said a Government decree issued in 2012 provides policies preventing the pliant conversion of rice farming land for other uses, especially non-agricultural purposes such as building residential areas.

He agreed that farmland must be protected, but not by forcing farmers to grow rice which limits their income. Rice can be replaced by other crop plants.

He also revealed that his ministry is designing a synchronous and efficient rice export plan to profit farmers, but it will take more time and resources to develop.

The minister went on to say that due to sluggish rice sales amidst the import of over 5 million tonnes of corn in 2014, Prime Minister Nguyen Tan Dung decided to support farmers to shift from farming rice to growing other crop plants in the Mekong Delta.

At the question-and-answer session, the official also cleared up matters relating to the progress of the national target programme on building new-style rural areas, solutions to ensure the sustainable development of industrial tree plantations and ways to support fishermen at sea.-VNA