Despite bumper yield, rice prices low in Mekong Delta

Farmers in the Mekong Delta are lamenting another drop in rice prices, even as they prepare to harvest their winter-spring crop in February, and despite a bumper yield.

Farmers havesting rice in Mekong Delta province of Dong Thap (File photo)

Statistics from the Department of Crop Production, under the Ministry of Agriculture and Rural Development, in the Mekong Delta provinces of Dong Thap, Vinh Long, Soc Trang and Hau Giang, show that the average rice productivity is over 7 tonnes per hectare, bringing the total output to more than 11 million tonnes for the entire region, mainly due to the rich silt brought in by flood waters.

Despite these good figures, farmers are worried because of fall in prices and they may not be able to sell their crop. Farmer Nguyen Van Hai from Tan An Commune of Cang Long District in Tra Vinh Province, said that even though productivity this year was higher than last year, such a sharp decline in price greatly discouraged all local farmers. At the moment, IR50404 type is being bought at VND5,000-5,200 per kilo (about US$ 0.24) and wet rice at VND4,000-4,100 per kilo (US$ 0.19).

While harvesting 1.5 hectare of high-quality rice, farmer Huynh Long Huong from Tan Son Commune of Tra Cu District in Tra Vinh Province, said that despite such a high yield of nearly 9 tonnes per hectare, an increase of 1 hectare compared to last year, farmers still face unease at such low rice prices. Even high-quality dried rice was bought at VND6,200 per kilo (US$0.3), let alone wet rice!

According to farmer Nguyen Van Vu in Vi Thanh City in Hau Giang Province, while the IR50404 type was actively sought in the last years because of its high quantity after milling, the table has turned this year! Everywhere, traders only accept the long-grain type for exporting. All Vu can do is to store his crop, hoping for a price rise in the future, which is unlikely!

Knowing that IR50404 is just a low-quality type of rice despite its high productivity, and that prices heavily depend on export demand, the Ministry of Agriculture and Rural Development  has warned farmers to save only around 20 per cent of their land for it. In reality, however, due to a very weak link between farmers and traders, along with poor attempts by the Ministry of Trade and the Ministry of Agriculture and Rural Development in monitoring and guiding rice planting in this IR50404 rice type, some areas reported that approximately 40-60 per cent of rice fields were used for growing the IR50404 variety.

Facing the unfortunately low demand this year, millions of local farmers can only wish for an immediate action from the government and the Vietnam Food Association to hoard rice and await prices to increase a bit.

Rice prices are decreasing day by day. The most troublesome issue is the price of IR50404 type, which is only VND4,000 per kilo at present. After a quick on-site observation throughout the rice growing areas and witnessing that traders flatly refuse to purchase this rice type, with notices like ‘No 504’, we need be apprehensive.
Dr. Le Van Banh, chairman of Mekong Delta Rice Research Institute

By Cao Phong, Binh Dai – Translated by Uyen Phuong

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