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Delta rice farmers need to modernise
02 | 08 | 2007
Mekong River Delta farmers need more modern machinery and storage facilities to reduce post-harvest losses, agricultural officials said.

According to a recent survey by the Danish International Development Agency (DANIDA), the rate of post-harvest rice loss in the Cuu Long (Mekong) Delta region reached 14.6 per cent of the region’s rice output, or about 2 million tonnes of rice a year.

The region, the country’s biggest rice basket, produces 18.8 million tonnes of rice a year, accounting for 53 per cent of the country’s rice output.

Annually the loss of this much rice amounts to VND3.6 trillion (US$240 million), which severely affects the national budget and local farmers’ incomes.

According to An Giang’s Agriculture and Rural Development Department, a lack of harvesters and thrashers, especially drying machines, and husking machines and storage houses has led to great losses after rice harvests.

The department said the use of modern farm machines instead of hand tools would reduce losses.

Farm machines including rice cutters and rice drying machines should be improved and sold on an installment plan, said Huynh Hiep Thanh, director of An Giang Province’s Agricultural Extension Centre.

The Cuu Long (Mekong) Delta region now needs about 25,000 rice dryers for post-harvest processing. Many communes with rice fields of 1,000-1,500 ha have only one or two rice dryers.

Build-a-better-harvester contest

KIEN GIANG — Mechanization of rice cultivation in the Mekong Delta is gravely lacking.

In response, the Ministry of Agriculture and Rural Development will sponsor a contest to introduce new models of combined harvesters suitable for paddy fields in the delta.

The contest will be in the southern province of Kien Giang from July 31 to August 4.

Only 3 per cent of the total 3.9 million ha of rice cultivation area in the Mekong Delta is harvested by combined machines, according to ministry figures.

The remaining rice area is mainly harvested by hand, which results in lower productivity and rice quality. Labour shortages aggravates the problem, increasing harvesting costs from VND700,000 per ha to VND1.2 million per ha.

"The competition will create a good opportunity for scientists, manufacturers and farmers to exchange experiences and expand co-operation in the production and distribution of combined harvesters in particular and farming tools in general," officials said.

An agricultural extension forum will be held on the contest’s sidelines by the National Agricultural Extension Center with scientists, managers, farming machine suppliers and farmers from 13 Mekong Delta provinces participating.—VNS

Farmers in the delta now have around 5,000 drying machines which meet just 20 per cent of the region’s demand, especially in the rainy season.

To address the problem the An Giang provincial authorities have offered a preferential policy to provide low-interest bank loans for local farmers so they can buy small-sized drying machines.

In past years, DANIDA has also provided the delta region with funding and drying technology to install small-sized dryers in the Mekong region.

A lack of paddy storehouses and rice drying machines means that local farmers have had to dry rice on the ground. Sometimes they use roads, and almost 30 per cent of the rice is broken or mixed with sand.

A survey conducted by three colleges in the south in 2006 revealed that 50 per cent of farmers in the delta region sold rice immediately after harvesting because they didn’t have enough money to buy a small rice dryer, which costs about VND5 million ($310).

In the rainy summer-autumn rice crop, the Mekong River Delta farmers harvest an average 9 million tonnes. Rice farmers are worried about preserving the rice as the annual flood could hit the region in September. — VNS

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