Farmers grow chilli in rice fields in Tien Giang Province’s Cho Gao District.(Photo: VNA)

HCM City (VNS/VNA) - The Mekong Delta and the south-eastern region plan to grow other crops on more than 126,300ha of low-yield rice fields this year as a means of adapting to climate change and improving farmers’ incomes.

Of the figure, 124,526ha are in the delta, according to the Plant Cultivation Department.

Farmers will rotate rice and other crops in the same fields or stop growing rice completely and grow only other crops.

In the 2018 -2019 winter-spring rice crop farmers switched to other crops on 32,840ha of rice fields in the southern region, including 30,990ha in the delta.

They grew corn, peanut, soybean, sesame, vegetables, orange, grapefruit, mango, and dragon fruit.

The winter-spring rice crop is the main one in the delta, the country’s rice granary, so the rate of switching to other crops was not high in 2018-2019 winter-spring.

The rate will be higher in the summer – autumn and autumn – winter crops this year.

The switch helps save water amid the more frequent droughts, improve soil fertility and prevent diseases, according to the department.

It also diversifies agricultural products and fetches farmers higher incomes.

But the switch faces difficulties such as the small scale and scattered nature of farms making the conversion and lack of irrigation facilities.

But the lack of tie-ups between farmers making the switch and buyers means there are no guaranteed outlets for their crops.  

The area of low-yield rice fields which have been turned into fruit orchards is increasing rapidly in the delta since fruits offer higher incomes.

In Tien Giang province, the delta’s largest fruit producer, authorities have been encouraging farmers to turn their low-yield rice fields in areas prone to saltwater intrusion and drought to grow fruits and other crops.

Farmers in Tien Giang who grow both vegetables and rice in their fields can earn 3.7 – 5.8 times the money they do from only rice, according to the province’s Department of Agriculture and Rural Development.  

Farmers giving up rice and growing only other crops earn 71-300 million VND (3,060-12,930 USD) per hectare annually, it added.

Nearly 57,000ha of rice fields have been converted in the province since 2013.-VNS/VNA