Traders neglect buying Mekong Delta rice

Farmers in the Mekong Delta have been unable to sell their crops at a profit, despite a price hike following a directive issued by the Prime Minister, as purchases have mostly been brokered through several intermediaries.

Farmers in the Mekong Delta dry unhusked rice (Photo: SGGP)

The directive has asked relevant ministries and food enterprises to buy one million tons of rice from July 15 to September 15 as farmers have been hard put to sell their rice amid falling prices and a hefty surplus.
It has been over 20 days since enterprises began to implement the directive, and rice prices have increased slightly on the market.
IR 50404, OM 2517 and OM 4218 unhusked rice is currently traded at VND3,500-3,700 per kilogram, and scented unhusked rice goes for VND4,200-4,500 per kilogram, up VND300-500 from last week.
However, food companies do not buy rice directly from farmers and they have left the buying to traders’ discretion. To reduce costs and energy, traders have not gone directly to farms to buy, opting to entrust brokers with the buying.
For the highest profit, brokers have usually offered farmers lower prices than traders had offered.
Therefore, though prices have risen, farmers still face many difficulties when selling their crops and have been unable to sell them at profitable prices.
Many farmers have been forced to sell their crops at low prices to pay their mature debts, which they had owed to fertilizer and pesticide agents.
Tu Ba Dat, a farmer from An Giang Province’s Chau Phu District, said, “I don’t know where there has been a hike in rice prices, but here I have just sold seven tons of unhusked rice at a price of only VND3,200 per kilogram.”
He said he did not want to sell his crops as that low price, but he could not pile them up at home, as the rains might come.
Farmers in the province’s Chau Thanh District have nearly finished harvesting the summer-autumn crop with a productivity of 5.5-6.5 tons per hectare, but they have been grappling with difficulties to sell their crops.
Lam Van Hung, a farmer from An Chau Town in Chau Thanh District, said, “At this time in the past merchants came in a rush to buy rice, but now baskets are full of rice, and no merchants come.”
“I have 30 tons of IR 50404 rice, some traders offered VND3,500 per kilogram few days ago, but then they didn’t buy, saying that exporters have yet to buy domestic rice so they don’t dare to buy and asked me to wait.”
Other Mekong Delta provinces are also in the same boat. According to the directive, enterprises in Dong Thap Province have to buy 110,000 tons of unhusked rice from the province’s farmers. However, with 197,000 hectares of rice fields, farmers have reaped one million tons.
Kien Giang Province’s farmers have also harvested their crop, yielding about one million tons, but enterprises have been ordered to buy only 180,000 tons so they will have lots of rice that remains unsold.
Causes and solutions
According to agriculture departments of Mekong Delta provinces, the biggest problem in consuming the summer-autumn crop is low-quality IR 50404 rice.
About 25-30 percent of many farms planted IR 50404 rice at this season.
An Giang and Dong Thap farmers said they chose this rice variety because it is easy to grow and produces high yields.
Nguyen Van Thuan, a farmer from Thoai Son District in An Giang Province, said, “I know that if growing IR 50404 rice, I will face difficulties selling it, but on this alum land, only this variety develops well.”
“It’s very difficult to grow the scented-rice variety because it requires advanced farming techniques,” he added.
It means that farmers realize risk from growing the low-quality variety but they cannot changeover to cultivating high-quality strands, as they lack the expertise required to do so.
Dr. Le Van Banh, head of the Mekong Delta Rice Institute, said farmers have cultivated rice based mainly on their experience.
Duong Nghia Quoc, director of Dong Thap Province’s Department of Agriculture and Rural Development, said relative ministries and agencies and enterprises need to take urgent measures to buy farmers’ crops.  
Dr. Vo Tong Xuan, former principal of An Giang Univeristy, said Vietnam is one of leading rice exporters in the world but the country has yet to build a brand name for its rice in line with international standards, therefore, it’s hard to boost exports.

Related articles:
Mekong Delta rice prices rise slightly
Food association to buy 1 mln tons of summer-autumn rice

By Dinh Tuyen – Translated by Hoang Yen

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