The Mekong River Delta should increase the use of advanced technologies as well as good agricultural practices (GAP) in fruit and vegetable production to enhance quality and safety, experts told a seminar held in Tien Giang on June 16.

Despite its many achievements, the agricultural sector's development had been unsustainable due to the small scale production and lack of market information, Mai Thanh Phung, chief of the National Agriculture Extension Centre's permanent division in the south, said.

"With shrinking arable land and increasing population, the application of new technologies in fruit and vegetable production is a must to raise productivity and quality," he warned.

This would enable the region's fruits and vegetables gain wider acceptance and improve their competitiveness in both domestic and international markets, he told a seminar organised by the centre, the Tien Giang Department of Agriculture and Rural Development, and the Trade Promotion and Economic Development Joint Stock Company.

Tran Thi Ba of Can Tho University said advanced technologies must be used in all stages of the value chain from production to consumption to add value to fruits and vegetables.

Many new horticultural techniques like the use of netting and mulch for growing fruit and vegetables and seedlings have been developed, but their efficacy is modest compared to their high costs, preventing companies from expanding their use, according to Ba.

Replying to a question about how farmers with their limited resources can adopt new technologies, Ba and Dr Duong Hoa Xo, director of the Ho Chi Minh City Biotechnology Centre, said farmers could invest gradually based on their financial situation.

For instance, they could first invest in drip irrigation and increase the use of bio-products instead of chemical-based pesticides, Xo said.

Vietnam could learn advanced production technologies from other countries but use locally available inputs to reduce costs, he said.

Phung said that with people becoming increasingly concerned about food safety, farmers should pay more attention to producing safe vegetable by following VietGap standards.

GAP is a collection of practices for on-farm production and post-production processes that safeguards the health of both producers and consumers, reduces environmental pollution, and results in the production of safe and healthy foods as well as products with easily traceable origins.

Phung said agricultural authorities should conduct awareness campaigns among farmers about the importance of the application of GAP and advanced technologies.

Besides, they should raise awareness among consumers about consuming safe products with clear origins, he said.

The Government should strengthen links between farmers and enterprises, with the latter ensuring there are outlets for all GAP-standard produce, the conference heard.

Delegates urged the sector to improve market forecast to grow crops that are in demand and strengthen promotion to diversify export markets for Vietnamese fruits and vegetables.

Nguyen Van Truc, a chilli grower in Cho Gao district's Binh Ninh commune, said local agencies should help farmers understand new technologies and apprise them about new strains of seeds to enable them to improve efficiency.

The Mekong Delta has 246,000ha under vegetables and 288,000ha under fruits, accounting for 30 percent and 34.6 percent of the country's total.-VNA