Wednesday, July 02, 2008

Vietnam grows larger summer rice crop

1 Jul, 2008, 1154 hrs IST, AGENCIES

HANOI: Vietnamese farmers are expanding the southern planting area of the summer-autumn rice crop to catch up with high prices, with acreage up 4.4 per cent from last year at 1.81 million hectares, the government said on Tuesday.

Prospects of a larger harvest this year prompted the government to lift a ban on rice exports last month and set a target to ship 4.5 million tonnes in the whole of 2008, similar to 2007. "The planting area under the summer-autumn rice crop in southern provinces this year is larger than last year's summer-autumn crop as food prices are at high levels, triggering farmers to expand the acreage," the General Statistics Office said in a report. It gave no output forecasts for the crop, the second-highest yielding in Vietnam after the winter-spring crop, which the report said has produced 18.03 million tonnes of paddy, up 5.9 per cent from last year's crop.

Winter-spring paddy prices have soared 90 per cent to 5,900 dong (35.7 US cents) per kg in the past year in the Mekong Delta food basket, and the summer-autumn paddy prices also jumped 89.3 per cent since last July to 5,300 dong per kg on Tuesday.

Rising rice prices have spurred farmers in several provinces to cut down fruit trees or forests of the medicinal cajuput tree, and turn the land into rice fields, the report and state television said. The general statistics office urged provincial authorities to try and halt the rush to convert fruit farms to growing rice. In the Mekong Delta, which produces more than 90 per cent of Vietnam's commercial rice, farmers have planted 1.59 million hectares (3.9 million acres) with the summer-autumn crop, or 5 per cent more than last year.

Agricultural officials have projected the summer-autumn crop to produce 10.15 million tonnes of paddy, up slightly from 10.11 million tonnes harvested in last year's crop. While the Delta's crop harvest is about to peak later this month, the government has limited rice exports to 3.5 million tonnes for the first nine months, promising to review the final export volume for 2008 when crop results are better known.

Traders said the government would give a final target for rice exports in September or early October this year. ($1=16,517 dong)