The Ministry of Agriculture and Rural Development has been directing localities to build plans to convert rice cultivation to other crops or in combination with aquatic breeding, as well as to improve irrigation systems, said Minister Cao Duc Phat.

He added that the ministry has proposed the Government continue to implement the Prime Minister’s Decision 580/QD-TTg, under which farmers will receive support to buy seedlings when switching from rice to other food crops, while expanding the support to the cultivation of other plants in the northern mountainous and midland, north central, Mekong Delta, south central coastal and Central Highland regions.

Nearly 700,000-800,000 hectares of ineffective rice cultivation are expected to be replaced with other crops by 2020, he noted.

The Mekong Delta in particular has grown maize soybean, sesame, sweet potatoes and vegetables on 53,800 hectares of former rice fields, thanks to seed assistance policies. Provinces in the region plan to convert 80,000 more hectares of rice fields to other crops in 2015.

Some 17,150 hectares of paddy fields in northern provinces have also been shifted to other plants. Effective models have helped raise farmer incomes 5-10 times compared to growing rice.

The south central coastal and Central Highland provinces planted other crops on 10,276 hectares of paddy fields with profits increasing 1.5-3 times from their rice outputs.

Converting from rice to drought-tolerant crops is increasingly relevant given the ongoing drought in south central coastal Binh Thuan, Ninh Thuan, Khanh Hoa and Quang Tri provinces is making it impossible for farmers to grow rice on over 50,000 hectares of land.

Minister Cao Duc Phat confirmed that his ministry will further coordinate with localities and the Ministry of Finance to deal with local concerns with supporting capital resources.-VNA