The Ministry of Agriculture and Rural Development (MARD) has set a target of increasing rice production by 1 million tonnes this year to ensure food security under instructions from Prime Minister Nguyen Tan Dung.

To realise the new target, the ministry plans to expand the rice cultivation area for the autumn-winter rice crop by 100,000 ha, mostly in southern provinces.

The ministry has advised southern provinces, especially those in the Cuu Long (Mekong) River Delta, each to reduce rice cultivation area for the summer-autumn crop by between 30,000 and 50,000 ha due to lower yields and unstable prices, according to deputy agriculture minister Bui Ba Bong.

This would enable expansion of the autumn-winter rice crop area in the delta to about 600,000 ha, he said.

Explaining the ministry's autumn-winter rice development plan, he said that over the past years the autumn-winter rice crop in the Cuu Long (Mekong) Delta always gave higher yield and stable prices.

According to the Cultivation Department under MARD, average productivity of the autumn-winter rice crop in the southern region now is over 4.8 tonnes per ha, with An Giang and Soc Trang provinces having the highest yield of between 6 or 6.5 tonnes per ha.
Can Tho City and An Giang province are pioneers in expanding the autumn-winter rice areas by 50,000 ha and 30,000 ha, respectively.

The ministry's plan to have an additional 100,000 ha for the autumn-winter crop is expected to help compensate for damages caused by natural disasters and crop failure that may occur in northern and central provinces.

Rice masterplan, as part of efforts to ensure national food security, the agriculture ministry has just submitted a masterplan for the use of the rice fields in the country by 2020 with a vision until 2030.

Under the scheme, the agricultural ministry proposes to maintain 3.8 million ha of rice farming land, of which 3.2 million ha will be used to cultivate two or more crops per year.

To realise the target, the ministry has also suggested some solutions, including intensifying investment in the agriculture sector, and organising public auction of agricultural land (to introduce transparency and check widespread sale and misuse), according to Cultivation Department Director Nguyen Tri Ngoc.

At present, the country now has nearly 4.1 million ha under rice cultivation. The rice farming area is estimated to drop by 5,700 ha by 2020 and 19,000 ha by 2030 due to climate change impacts.

From 2000 until now, the rice cultivation area nation-wide has dropped, but its productivity has improved thanks to localities' efforts to develop irrigation systems as well as active application of advanced technology in the development of rice hybrids as well as the farming process. As a result, rice yield increased by 2.45 per cent on average per year, according to the ministry./.