Local authorities in the Mekong Delta plan to dredge rivers and canals in the region to create more irrigation water for 300,000ha of newly planted rice crops, which face saline-water intrusion and a water shortage.

Disease outbreaks among crops could also occur, the Ministry of Agriculture and Rural Development said.

To deal with emergencies, local plant protection and cultivation departments have been told to monitor weather conditions.

The ministry has also urged them to develop more large-scale rice fields, which could help farmers gain outlets for their products and improve rice quality for exports.

Farmers are currently planting the rest of the planned 1.68 million hectares for the summer-autumn rice crop, according to the ministry. The Delta targets an average yield of 5.5 tonnes per hectare for the crop.

Although the price of rice seeds is 1,000-1,500 VND a kilo lower than the same period last year, due to lower food prices, there is no seed shortage, according to Ngo Dinh Thuc, deputy director of the Kien Giang Province's Agriculture Fisheries and Forestry Breeding Centre.

The centre has prepared 2,250 tonnes of rice seeds, mostly major rice varieties such as GKG 1, OM 6976, OM 5451, OM 2517 and Jasmine 85.

The Delta currently needs 190,000-200,000 tonnes of rice seeds for the crop, local agriculture officials have said.

Trinh Van Thang, owner of Hung Phat Rice Seeding in Can Tho City, said the decline in paddy prices this year had affected rice-seed demand. In addition, many farmers had planted their own rice seeds for the summer-autumn crop, he said.

Also, about 65 percent of rice seeds are produced during the winter-spring crop season because of favourable weather conditions, according to rice seed producers.

Huynh Hiep Thanh, director of An Giang Province's Agriculture Extension Centre, said rice seeds produced in the last winter-spring crop met necessary standards for cultivation.

An Giang has been successful in urging farmers to produce rice seeds, and as a result, it has more than enough for use and sale to other provinces. An Giang produces more than 75,000 tonnes of rice seeds a year.

In Ca Mau Peninsula, high quality rice seed varieties that are highly disease-resistant and saline-resistant have been provided to farmers.

Le Cong Tam, head of Bac Lieu Province's Sub-department of Plant Protection, said the province had an ample reserve of rice seeds, including major rice varieties like OM 4900, OM 4218 and OM 2517.-VNA