Mekong locals show preference for foreign rice

While the “Buy Vietnamese” campaign has boosted production and consumption of many local products, a paradox exists in the Mekong Delta where foreign rice floods the market and residents prefer it to domestic varieties, an SGGP inquiry has found.

At a border market in the province of An Giang, one of the leading granaries in the region, it is hard to find grown-in-Vietnam rice. Most stalls sell Cambodian and Thai brands instead.

Asked why she does not sell domestic rice, Tran Hong Diem, a trader at Tinh Bien market pointed to bags of Cambodian rice explaining: “This rice is sweet-smelling and delicious, so people here prefer it.”

As a result, traders in the Mekong mainly sell imported rice, at a rate of 80-90 percent of the total trade, she said.

Truong Thi Dang, a rice seller in Tinh Bien District, elaborated: “Pac Tam or Soc rice from Cambodia sells at just VND8,000 per kg but tastes good, while domestically produced rice ranges between VND7,500-8,500 and even over VND10,000 for some kinds; but it is inferior in quality.”

Cambodian and Thai rice is sold in large quantities in Tinh Bien District, An Giang Province in the Mekong Delta. Despite producing most of Vietnam’s rice, Mekong residents are showing an increasing partiality for foreign grains. (Photo: SGGP)

Therefore, the number of families opting for foreign rice is increasingly growing, she said. While many farmers grow domestic rice varieties like IR 50404, they sell the harvested crops to traders and buy Cambodian rice to eat instead, she added.

“It is quite simple,” said Nguyen Ngoc Hieu, a resident in the district’s Xuan To commune. “Since living conditions have now improved, many families have shifted from ‘eat to fill’ to ‘eat ambrosia’.

A large quantity of Cambodian and Thai rice can also be found in many border markets in Chau Doc, Khanh Binh and Vinh Xuong – all in An Giang Province; or in other border areas like Hong Ngu and Tan Hong in Dong Thap Province; and in Ha Tien of Kien Giang Province.

Even in provinces far from border areas like Can Tho, Vinh Long and Tien Giang, it is easy to find imported rice for sale.

“In Can Tho, if you ask traders which kinds of rice are best-sellers, the answer is likely to be: Cambodian rice,” said Tran Thanh Hao, a rice trader in Tinh Bien.

In addition, thousands of tons of paddy are brought from Cambodia into Vietnam daily via Tinh Bien, where many agents sell wholesale Cambodian and Thai paddy to traders in other provinces.

After husking paddy, traders sell them to rice markets in Ho Chi Minh City and its neighboring provinces, said Nguyen Thi Tuyet, a trader from Long An province.

Local high-yield varieties of paddy like IR 50404 or OM 3217 is mainly sold to enterprises to make rice for export instead of for domestic consumption, she said.

Quality, not quantity

“Foreign rice flooding domestic markets is a reality, but we have yet to seek out suitable ways to cope with it,” said Deputy Chairman of An Giang Province People's Commitee, Huynh The Nang.

“Specific areas for growing high-quality rice have yet to be set up, so it is inevitable for local rice to be overwhelmed by foreign grains, like higher-quality Cambodian and Thai rice,” he said.

Concerned agencies must address the fact that people in the country’s “rice cradle” have turned their back on domestic grains, and seek solutions to the problem, Mr. Nang said.

A balance is needed between rice for export and rice for local consumption, and more high-quality paddy-growing areas need to be set up quickly, he added.

If the country is to step up consumption of made-in-Vietnam rice, it should not prioritize quantity but must focus instead on measures to improve rice quality, such as expanding growing areas for high-quality rice like Nang Huong, Nang Nhang and Tam Xoan, said Prof. Vo Tong Xuan, former headmaster of An Giang University.

By Dinh Tuyen – Translated by Quang Hung

Other news