A farmer harvest his crop in a high-quality rice paddy in Kiên Giang Province. — VNA/VNS Hồng Đạt

Vietnam is outlining a plan to cultivate one million hectares of low-carbon high-quality rice in the Mekong River Delta to meet its net zero emission targets.

The plan, being prepared by the Ministry of Agriculture and Rural Development (MARD), is expected to be submitted to the Government for approval in March and be under implementation in 2024.

Twelve out of 13 provinces in the region have signed up for the plan. They have committed to reaching 200,000ha next year, 719,000ha in 2025, and over one million hectares in 2030.

An Giang Province took the lead with a commitment to grow 150,000ha in 2025 and 200,000ha in 2030, undertaking a large share of the target.

Deputy Minister of Agriculture and Rural Development Trần Thanh Nam said most Vietnamese firms do not develop rice paddies to cater to their exports. The firms rely only on traders to maintain their trade activities, resulting in a volatile rice market.

As such, the involvement of firms in the plan would hold the key to its successful implementation.

He also said several Japanese firms were making a request for their participation in the plan. If the ministry accepts their request, they would undertake 200,000ha of the target and use the rice to produce biofuel.

Lê Thanh Tùng, deputy director of the Department of Crop Production, MARD, opined that the target for 2024 would be within reach because 184,000ha of land under vnSAT projects (Vietnam Sustainable Agriculture Transformation) could be easily transformed into low-carbon paddies.

He said what has to be done next is to make sure that firms would buy the rice produced. If it is not the case, local authorities must turn to the ministry for business-matching support.

Nguyễn Thanh Truyền, director of Long An Province's Department of Agriculture and Rural Development, revealed that his province would contribute 60,000ha to the common efforts in 2025, and 120,000ha in 2030.

"In the 2022-23 harvest, 17 local firms committed to buying rice from local farmers," said Truyền.

The World Bank's agriculture economist Animesh Shrivastava underlined two challenges for the plan, which centre around farmers' incomes and the market.

He said rice is an agricultural staple of the country but it has not provided farmers with a decent income. Food security would always be at risk unless the country could improve farmers' livelihoods.

The expert urged Việt Nam to invest further in market research and brand promotion to help its rice gain ground globally.

Nguyễn Văn Thành, chairman of the Phước Thành IV Trading - Production Company Ltd., said the ministry must offer firms some kind of incentive if it wants firms to actively take part in the plan.

Such incentives could include preferential loans to help firms take hold of machinery, equipment, and warehouse more easily.

"It's all about favourable policies," said Thành. — VNS