SEARCA pushes for Good Agricultural Practices among Mekong River Delta rice farmers to combat salinity problems

The Southeast Asian Regional Center for Graduate Study and Research in Agriculture (SEARCA) strongly recommends the massive promotion of Good Agricultural Practices (GAP) among rice farmers in Vietnam’s Mekong River Delta (MRD) and coastal areas during the country’s current salinity and drought crisis.

SEARCA Director Dr. Glenn B. Gregorio said SEARCA is pushing for the adoption of GAP in its newly published policy paper on the economic importance of the rice production sector in Vietnam, the extent of salinity and drought in the MRD, and how these are exacerbated by climate change-related hazards.

In the paper, SEARCA has noted the importance of rice production in MRD as the sector is a major engine of economic growth and poverty reduction in Vietnam. In the past 10 years, the MRD region accounts for about half of the total volume of Vietnam’s rice production. Moreover, the MRD contributes enormously to global rice trade as its production accounts for about 90% of the total volume of the Vietnam’s rice export.

However, the country’s rice production has declined due to the combined effects of salinity and drought. SEARCA said estimates have shown that 10 of the 13 provinces in the MRD have suffered severe drought and saltwater intrusion as a result of the decrease in upstream flow because of El Niño.

Available data showed that rice production decreased by 4.5% from 45.10 M tons in 2015 to 43.17 M tons in 2016. The yield per hectare decreased by 3.2% from 5.76 tons/ha in 2015 to 5.58 tons/ha in 2016.

According to SEARCA, the onset of climate change and its related hazards have been observed to further exacerbate such negative effects of salinity to rice production in the MRD.

The think-tank also cautioned that that if the salinity remains systematically unabated, it will result to food insecurity and reduction of the rice industry’s competitiveness.

SEARCA thus recommends policy interventions both at the national and farm levels.

At the level of farm operation, SEARCA advocates the use of GAP in rice cultivated in saline coastal areas recommended by the International Rice Research Institute. The seven steps of GAP to higher rice yield are  rice variety selection to use of high-quality seeds, seedbed management, field preparation, water management, fertilizer management, and timely harvesting schedule.

On the other hand, at the national level, SEARCA has called for an innovative system of integrated policy, services, technology, human capital development, and social community engagement to be supported and strengthened in Vietnam.

Moreover, SEARCA pointed out that even as major elements of a competitive rice sector are already in Vietnam, there is a need for further interventions related to rural infrastructure. The interventions SEARCA cited include irrigation system, effective transport and logistical systems, advisory services, weather and climate monitoring data systems.

SEARCA also highlighted the need for sustained promotion and support for research and development that must be geared towards the development and wider adoption of integrated rice farming technologies that ensure high productivity and resilience.