Rice through history of the country


Van Nguu Nguyen


There are many historical, cultural and technical evident and and facts which demonstrate/indicate that Vietnam is one of the original centers of rice cultivation in the world. Vietnam is the country where prehistoric people (Homo erectus) lived. Before the formation of Vietnam country, prehistoric people living in the country domesticated the wild rice plants and created suitable conditions for rice cultivation and production to provide food for them. After the creation of the first Vietnam State is Van Lang at about 2,000 BCE or more than 4,000 years ago, rice cultivation in the country has had continuously developed and grown along with the development and construction as well as the defense of the country. This chapter briefly introduces some technical and cultural aspects of the rice cultivation and production in the country through the history of the country.


During the Old Stone Age (> 30,000 years ago), prehistoric people (Homo erectus) probably moved from Africa to and lived in Southeast Asia. Archaeological works have also found the footprints of prehistoric people at other places in Southeast Asia that are belonging to modern day countries such as Malaysia, Philippines and Vietnam. The prehistoric people may have grouped themselves into small bands/groups and they lived temporarily in natural caves near streams and lakes and they used simple tools made of stones and/or bones of animals to gather and to hunt for food. They moved from one place to another place in the region. In Vietnam, the footprints of prehistoric people during the stone age were found in Lạng Sơn, Thanh Hoá, Vĩnh Phú, Nghệ An, Lai Châu and Đồng Nai (Table 1). The culture of the prehistoric people in Vietnam was the Sơn Vì.

Table 1 Special information related to rice cultivation during different periods and cultures (Adapted from Bùi Huy Đáp, 1985 and Trần Văn Đạt 2002)



Special Information

Old Stone Age

Sơn Vì

Footprints of people found in Bỉnh Giã (Lạng Sơn), Núi Độ(Thanh Hoá), Vĩnh Phú, Tô Hiệu (Nghệ An), Xuân Lộc (Đồng Nai), Phong Thọ (Lai Châu) and Cẩm Thuý (Thanh Hoá)

Middle Stone Age

Hoà Bình

Wild rice found in Mường Thanh; O perennis Mench found in western part of Northern Vietnam; rice grains in Trại Alley, Mường Bí Valley

New Stone Age

Bắc Sơn

Tools found included stone axes in Bắc Sơn, stone grain grinding table in Bắc Sơn and Quỳnh Vân, stone pounding tools in Quỳnh Vân

Hạ Long

Rice cultivation tribes found in Quảng Ninh and Hải Phòng

Bầu Tro

Rice cultivation tribes found in Nghệ An, Hà Tĩnh and Quảng Bình

Cau Sat

Rice cultivation tribes found in Xuan Loc, Dong Nai

Prehistoric people in Southeast Asia during the Middle Stone Age (from 30,000 years ago to about 10,000 BC) continued to live in the same ways as their ancestors. They continued to live temporarily in natural caves near streams and lakes and moved from one place to another place in the region. However, the population per group increased and they began to form tribes. In addition to gathering and hunting, they fished to provide food supply for the growing population. At around 22,000 years ago the temperature of the atmosphere increased so that the ice melted and flooded the land bridges connecting the Maritime and the Mainland parts of the Southeast Asia and this limited the movement of prehistoric people to some degree. During the Old and Middle Stone Age, the prehistoric in Southeast Asia gathered the grains of wild rice plants of the O. rufipogon and O. nivara species that grew in inundated areas for food. The culture of the people living in Vietnam during the Middle Stone Age was the Hòa Bình Culture. The traces of wild rice of the Hòa Bình Culture were found in Trại Alley (or Xóm Trại) of the Mường Bi Valley (Table 1, Bùi Huy Đáp 1985).

During the New Stone Age (from 10,000 BC to 3,500 BC), the population of some groups of prehistoric people in Southeast Asia grew very large and they began to gradually settle. They probably established villages and settlements. They formed tribes and chiefdom. They continued to use stone tools and implements and advanced tools such as the chisel, hoe, plough, yoke, grain grinders, etc were developed to improve the efficiency of their daily activities. They continued to gather, hunt and fish for food. However, due to increased food demand of the population, they began to domesticate wild animals and plants to increase food production. One of the most important activities was the domestication of wild rice plants. During the New Stone Age in Vietnam, there were different cultures such as Bắc Sơn, Hạ Long, Bầu Tró and Cầu Sắt. Many evidences showed that a number of tribes of these cultures started to cultivate rice (Table 1). An irrigation system for rice cultivation was built during the New Stone Age in Gio Linh, Quảng Trị Province (Bùi Huy Đáp, 1985).

The rice grains of O. perennis Mench, which were found in the ruins at Xóm Trại, Mường Bí in northern region of the modern Vietnam in 1982, were about 6000 years old. The ages of the stone axes and hoes, which were found in Độ Mountain, Thanh Hoá in the northern part and Đồng Nai in the southern part of today Vietnam are about 5000 to 7000 years old (Bùi Huy Đáp, 1985; Trần Văn Đạt, 2002). Stone grinders, pestles and mortars for removing husks and bran from rice grains were found in Bắc Sơn, Vietnam (Bùi Huy Đáp, 1985). There are reports indicating that Vietnamese groups in the western mountainous regions in northern part of today Vietnam have folk story Cây Lúa or Bó Khâu Quang, which tells about the domestication of rice by their prehistoric ancestors (Bùi Huy Đáp, 1985).

There are 24 Oryza species but only Oryza sativa and Oryza glaberrima were domesticated for cultivation for food production by human population. Earlier a number of scientists believed that China and India were the original centers/centres of Oryza sativa (or O sativa) rice plants (Chawdhury and Ghose, 1953). In the recent past, however, Southeast Asia, especially the mountainous areas in the northern parts of Myanmar, Thailand, Laos, and Vietnam were identified as original centers of rice plant and cultivation (Chang, 1976). According to Sampah and Govindaswamy (1958) the O sativa came from the wild rice plant O perennis var balunga. Chang (1976) postulated that O sativa came from O nivara and O ruffipogon. According to Dao The Tuan (1995) Vietnam has the following rice species O ruffipogon, O officinalis, O granulate and O nivara.


The first Vietnamese State, the Văn Lang State, was established in year 2000 BCE or around 4010 years ago by the Austroasiatic-language-speaking people tribes or Lạc Việt people with the capital at Phong Châu, Phú Thọ Province (Bùi Huy Đáp, 1985 and Trần Hồng Đức and Hà Anh Thu, 2000, Trần Trọng Kim, 1971; Thái Văn Kiểm, 1997). Figure 1 graphically shows the location of the Văn Lang State.


Figure 1 Map of Văn Lang in 500 BC


In 2000, Trần Hồng Đức và Hà Anh Thu also reported that Văn Lang State was situated in northern and central regions of today Vietnam and had the following 15 administrative regions, namely: (1) Văn Lang, which is in today Bắc Hà, Phú Thọ; (2) Châu Diên, which is in today Sơn Tây; (3) Phúc Lộc, which is in today Sơn Tây; (4) Tân Hưng, which is in today Phu Thọ và Tuyên Quang; (5) Vũ Định, which is in today Thái Nguyên, Cao Bằng; (6) Vũ Ninh, which is in today Bắc Ninh; (7) Lục Hải, which is in today Lạng Sơn; (8) Ninh Hải, which is in today Quảng Ninh; (9) Dương Tuyền, which is in today Hải Dương; (10) Giao Chỉ, which is in today Hà Nội, Hưng Yên, Nam Định, Ninh Bình; (11) Cửu Chân, which is in today Thanh Hóa; (12) Hoài Hoan, which is in today Nghệ An; (13) Cửu Đức, which is in today Hà Tĩnh; (14) Việt Thường, which is in today Quảng Bình, Quảng Trị, and (15) Bình Vân (?).

In the land of Văn Lang State, three following cultures were found: (1) The Phùng Nguyên Culture in Phú Thọ, from 2500 to 1500 BCE, (2) The Đồng Đậu Culture in Vĩnh Phúc, from 1500 to 1000 BCE, and (3) The Gò Mun Culture in the Red River Delta Valley (Trần Văn Đạt, 2002 and Sakurai, 1987). In Phùng Nguyên villages, stone sickles, minor axes and large ceramic pots to store bulk grains were found and metal and metallurgical engineering took place in Phùng Nguyên villages (Phạm Văn Thích and Hà Văn Tấn, 1970). The development of bronze tools and artifacts, including farming tools, during Phùng Nguyên Culture continued to advance into Đồng Đậu and Gò Mun Cultures. For example, the Cân Xứng bronze axes were produced at around 1700 BCE and the Vạn Thắng bronze plough was produced at around 1500 BCE to 1000 BCE (Bùi Huy Dáp, 1985). The Cái Hái bronze harvesting tool was found at Gò Mun sites.

The age of Phùng Nguyên rice grains is about 3,300 +/- 100 years old, while that of Đồng Đậu rice grains is about 3,120 +/- 100 years old. Ash of burned rice grains, dated 3050 +/- 100 years ago were found at Đồng Đậu sites (Vien Khao Co Hoc, 1999). Bùi Huy Đáp (1985) and recently the Thanh Nien News (http://www.thanhniennews.com) reported that irrigation systems were built at around 2000 BCE to provide irrigation for lowland/wet rice farming in the area of today Gio Linh District, Quảng Trị Province.

During the second half of the period of Văn Lang State, the Đồng Sơn Culture took placed at around 1000 BCE in the Red River Delta. Similar to the Hòa Bình Culture, the Đồng Sơn Culture spread its influences widely to other parts of Southeast Asia. The famous artifacts of Đồng Sơn Culture are the bronze drums. On the Ngọc Lử, Hoàng Hà, Cổ Loa, and Sông Đà bronze drums that were produced at around 600 BCE in Red River Delta, there are drawing of various activities related to rice production, harvest and processing. For example, on the surface of Ngọc Lử Drum there are drawings of humans who appear to be performing a ceremony, rice growing and harvesting activities, musical instruments, and scenes of deer, hornbill and crane egret (Figure 2).

The Văn Lang State had 18 kings. The popular story of Bánh Chưng and Bánh Dầy was about the use of glutinous rice to make cake during the reign of the 6th king and the story Thánh Gióng was about the young Saint who used iron horse, steel cloth and steel stick to chase away the enemy army (the An Army).

Bảy nong cơm, ba nong cà

Uống một hơi, cạn đà khúc sông


Seven rounds of rice and 3 rounds egg plants

One drink, he drained the whole river


Figure 2 The surface of Ngọc Lử Drum (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Dong_Son_drums)

The people of Văn Lang State during the Đồng Sơn Culture were known to be skilled at cultivating rice and their rice fields were called Lạc fields – in Vietnamese language, Lạc is water (Lê Hửu Muc, 2001). Cima (1987) reported that the Vietnamese farmers during the 6th centuries BCE already followed the tidal regimes to irrigated their rice fields. Bùi Huy Đáp suggested in 1985 that the legend Sơn Tinh and Thủy Tinh implies the construction of dike by Vietnamese under the reign of the VI Hung King of Văn Lang State to protect wet land rice fields in Red River Delta from flood. The ancestors of Vietnamese worshiped the Rice Saint (or Thần Lúa Gạo). The Hùng temple, locating on Nghĩa Lĩnh mountain, Cổ Tích village, Hy Cương commune, Phong Châu district, Phú Thọ province has 3 temples and the tallest temple is called Kinh Thiên Liên Điện, which is used to worship saints of Sun, the saint of Earth, and the saint of Rice. The saint of Rice is represented by a large wooden rice husk (Anynomous, 1997).


In 257 BCE, the Văn Lang State was incorporated into the Âu Lạc State by Âu Việt tribes. In 207 BCE, the Âu Lạc State was invaded by a Chinese general, Triệu Đà, and was incorporated into his kingdom of Nam Việt. In 111 BCE, Chinese Han troops invaded the Nam Việt kingdom and started the subjection of Vietnamese to a long period of Chinese colonization, which lasted up to 938.

Before the Chinese Han invasion, Vietnamese already fabricated hoes and ploughs, constructed dikes to protect rice fields from flood. Starting in the 1st century, Chinese colonists introduced iron hoes and ploughs and taught Vietnamese to harness animal traction for land preparation (Phạm Văn Sơn, 1960). Canals and dykes were continued to be constructed to ensure water control in rice cultivation; the use of fertilizer was introduced to facilitate intensive farming by growing two crops a year on well-irrigated fields (Bùi Huy Đáp, 1985). At the beginning of the 9th century the dykes systems along the bank of the Red River had already considerable length (Bùi Huy Đáp, 1985). During the 3rd century, Giao Chỉ or Red River Delta under Chinese colonization served as a port of call for junks from Java, Burma, Iran, India and even the Roman Empire on their way to China and in large centers/centres, there were a number of foreign residents such as Khmers and Indians. As time went by, the Chinese functionaries and their descendants living in the country became “Vietnamized” and with indigenous functionaries and landowners, they constituted an indigenous ruling class with feudal characteristics. Rice cultivation and production in the country had been modified and affected by the Chinese.

Outside the China occupied Văn Lang State, from 193 to 605, Champa people, a group of Austronesian-language-speaking people, established the Lâm ấp Kingdom in the areas, which are today Central Coastal Regions of Vietnam. The Champa people grew two rice crops in a year and their villages were rich in locally-worked iron tools and artifacts, typified by axes, swords, spearheads, knives and sickles. Further south to the Mekong River Delta, rice production had been the source of wealth and power of the Funan Kingdom during the 1st to 6th centuries. The people of the Funan kingdom were probable dominated by the Mon-Khmer people. The Funan Kingdom built elaborate systems of water reservoirs and irrigation canals for rice production (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Kingdom_of_Funan).


The battle on Bach Dang River in 938 led to a long period of independence. The cultural aspects of rice cultivation were enhanced with the establishment of the tradition of celebration of Tịch Điền Festival in the first Lunar month to promote rice cultivation by King Lê Đại Hành during his reign from 980 to 1050. Water management in rice cultivation was improved by the digging of canals and deepening the river systems for transport and rice irrigation and the construction of dike systems along the banks of major rivers in Red River Delta by the government of King Lê Đại Hành (980 to 1050), King Lý Thái Tổ (1010 to 1028) and King Lý Nhân Tông (1072 to 1127) (Trần Hồng Đức và Hà Anh Thu, 2000).

The land and rice land of Vietnam increased substantially since the independence of the country and Vietnamese in newly expanded areas interact with local population and learned from them new rice cultivation skill and technique. For example, drought resistance and early maturing rice varieties of Champa people were imported during the reign of King Lý Thái Tổ from 1010 to 1028 and adopted for planting in Red River Delta and other deltas in Thanh Hóa and Nghệ An Provinces during dry season after the flood water receded in December (Vaughan and Chang, 1995). After the marriage of Huyền Trân to King Che Man of Champa in 1314, the Champa king gave to Vietnam two land areas namely Ô and Rí, which are the present Quảng Trị and Thừa Thiên provinces.

Năm xưa trong lúc sang xuân

Tôi theo Công Chúa Huyền Trân tôi lên đường


In the spring of the other years

Following the foot steps of Huyền Trân Princess, I started my southward trip

The increased interaction between Vietnamese and people of Champa after the marriage of Huyền Trân had like-wise improved the skill of Vietnamese in rice cultivation and production for food. Several early maturing rice varieties of Champa were adopted to plant areas from Quảng Bình to Thừa Thiên-Huế Provinces, which was called Lúa Ba Trăng or 3-month rice – this crop was planted in December and harvested in March.

From 1428 to 1498, Vietnam (or Đại Việt) expanded its land area to cover the land of Thai people in areas in the north, which belong to today Điện Biên and Sơn La Provinces and the land area of Champa people in the south, which belong to today Quảng Nam, Quảng Ngãi, and Bình Định Provinces and Đà Nẵng City. In the 15th century, canals for irrigation were dug and roads were built to support rice cultivation during the reign of King Hồ Quý Ly from 1400 to 1401 (Cima, 1987 and Trần Hồng Đức and Hà Anh Thu, 2000), while regular construction and repair of rice granaries and the building of irrigation systems after floods were carried out during the reign of King Lê Thánh Tông from 1443 to 1497 (Trần Hồng Đức and Hà Anh Thu, 2000).

From 1540 to 1777 Vietnam experienced the North-South internal war or Trịnh-Nguyễn Civil War. During the war, under the leadership of Nguyễn Lords in the South the country expanded southward and this movement ended in 1757 when Long Xuyên and Cà Mau Province were finally integrated into the country land (Fig. 3). Consequently, Vietnamese enriched by the experiences of Khmer and other populations in term of rice cultivation. A new rice season, called the Lúa Tháng Tám, was adopted. Lúa Tháng Tám was planted in April and harvested in August or September (Bùi Huy Đáp, 1985). This rice season has become popular as Hè Thu crop or Summer-Autumn crop in the recent years.

Starting since 17th century, Vietnamese also adopted the new rice varieties and learned from the local population the experiences of planting deep water or floating rice as well as the practice of the double transplanting of rice in the areas that are deeply flooded during the rainy season. In 1778, King Quang Trung defeated both Trịnh Lords in the North and Nguyễn Lords in the South to reunite the country and end the Trịnh-Nguyễn Civil War. In 1802, Lord Nguyễn Phúc Ánh defeated the army of King Quang Trung and became King Gia Long. The second Nguyễn King – Ming Mang – relaunched and improved the Tịch Điền Festival (Toan Ánh, 1997). The office for Tịch Điền Festival was created in Yên Trạch and Hau Sanh villages in Thừa Thiên Province and special rice fields were devoted for Tịch Điền Festival in every province. In addition, the Thượng Điền Festival was created for the harvest of rice.


Figure 3 Frontiers of Vietnam at different times in the country’s history (Huard and Durand, 1954)

The Kà Tu tribes in Trường Sơn Mountain Chain in Thừa Thiên and Quảng Nam provinces had the tradition of blocking all roads during rice harvest time to prevent visitors from entering their villages. After harvesting and threshing the harvested rice young people in villages of Kà Tu tribes sang and danced while distributing baskets of newly cooked rice for birds in surrounding forests to eat (Bui Huy Dap, 1985).

Ngày mùa lúa tốt, chim ơi lũ chim trời

Quay về đây cùng ta vui với


The harvest was good, all free birds

Come here to enjoy with us


In 1858, French gunships attacked the port of Đà Nẵng, captured Saigon in 1959, and then completed the occupation of the whole Cochinchina in 1862. In 1884, France forced Vietnam to sign the Patenôtre Agreement, which established the French colonial government over the whole country. French colonizer divided Vietnam into three administrative entities, namely Cochinchina, (2) Annam, and Tonkin (Fig. 4).


Figure 4 The country’s map during French colonization (Cima, 1987)

The Bulletin economique de l’Indochine (1912) also reported that in 1912 Cochinchina planted about 1.500 million hectares of rice, while the Tonkin planted 0.776 million hectares of rice. Similarly, Merette (2013) reported that during the period from 1919 to 1922, Cocbinchina planted about 1.500 million hectares of rice, while the Tonkin planted 0.776 million hectares of rice. In 1936, Gourou (1936) suggested that in the early 1930s, almost 90% of Cochinchina’s agricultural production was rice, while in Tonkin, about 1.1 million hectares of rice were planted yearly in the Red River Delta, of which 350,000 ha in highland during the rainy season, 250,000 ha in lowland during dry season, and a total of 500,000 ha in midlands during both rainy season and with irrigation in dry season. In early 20th century, rice was widely cultivated throughout Vietnam (Fig 5).

Vietnam’s rice cultivated area increased from 0.8 million hectares in 1868 (Trần Văn Đạt, 2002) to about 4.37 million hectares in 1927 (International Year Book of Agricultural Statistics, 1942). The growth in rice cultivation area slowed down after 1927 so that only 4.91 million hectares were planted to rice in Vietnam in 1942 (International Year Book of Agricultural Statistics, 1942).


Figure 5 Rice areas in Vietnam in early 20th Century (Brenier, 1917)

French colonial administration reinforced the dykes encircling the Red River and its tributaries were. They also built dams in upstream on one of the Red River tributaries and the Phủ Lý canal to improve the drainage of the western part of the Red River Delta. From the early 20th century, the colonial administration then embarked on limited gravitational irrigation network projects covering about 60,000 ha by the construction of diversion canals upstream on the rivers and the installation of a pumping station in the upstream zone of the delta making it possible to raise the water of the Red River and irrigate the highlands (Gourou 1936). By 1930, French colonizers had dug 1300 kilometers of rectilinear primary canals of 22 meters wide and 2 meters deep at low tide (Owen, 1970). The construction of canals improved the transportation as the flatness of the Transbassac and delta area and the height of tides in the South China Sea made the tides the most important source of motive power for the boat traffic of Cochinchina. By 1922, there was an extensive network of both colonial and local roads in Tonkin and Cochinchina; 2,127 km of colonial roads and 5,406 km of local roads in Tonkin and 834 km of colonial roads and 4,149 km of local roads in 1992 (Merette 2013).

However, land alienation was the cornerstone of economic exploitation under the colonial government (Cima, 1987). Prior to French rule, the imperial ‘dia-bo‘ had recorded landholdings and acted as a type of registration. By 1925, a land code was instituted in Cochinchina, whereby any land that was without owner or vacant was belonged to the French colonized government. In addition, the regulation of the property rights made it easier for larger landholdings to be established by French and their Chinese collaborators in Cochinchina (Merette, 2013) and as a result by 1930 more than 80 percent of the rice land in Cochinchina was owned by landowners who constituted only 25 percent of the rural population, while 57 percent of the rural population were landless peasants working on large estates.

In addition, the life of Vietnamese, especially peasants, was further burdened by heavy taxes and usurious interest rates on loans were added burdens on the. The total values of tax collection in Southern Vietnam increased by 10 folds after 10 years of French colonization (Cima, 1987). In 1910 the tax on rice land ranged from 0.25 to 2 piastre per hectare (Table 2)

Table 2 Tax on rice land in Cochinchina in 1910 (Brenier, 1917)

Type of rice land

Expected yield (tons/ha)

Land tax (VN piastre/ha)*

Premium class

> 1.00


First class

0.6 to 1.0


Second class

0.35 to 0.60


Third class

0.25 to 0.35


Fourth class



Vietnam’s rice production during French colonization was more than enough to provide food security for all Vietnamese or even all population in French Indochina. For example, Vietnam’s rice production in 1927 was about 4.7 million tons (International yearbook of Agricultural statistics, 1944), while the population of Vietnam in 1937 was 18.97 million (Roberquqin, 1939). However, due to exploitation nature of French colonial system during French colonization large section of Vietnamese population suffered from hunger and famine. On the other hand large quantities of rice were exported by French government (Table 3).

Table 3 Rice export in tons from Cochinchina under French colonization, from 1862 to 1929

Owen (1970)

Trần Văn Đạt (2002)





































18 99










Vietnamese, therefore, revolted against French colonization. During the war against French domination, men generally would become soldiers and left behind rice farming activities to their wives as it was described in the following poem.

Đồng mình trứơc bữa anh đi

Đất chưa cày ãi, mạ thì chưa gieo

Bây giờ ruộng đã kín bèo

Lúa xanh một giãi luồn theo núi đồi

Mong anh giữ vững biễn trời

Quê nhà đã có em rồi, đừng lo


When you left

Our field was not ploughed, the nursery was not seeded

Now the field is full with rice crop,

The green rice plants form a blanket, reaching up to the mountain

Please do not worry, but keep the country safe

At home, I could manage every thing

French colonization ended in 1954 after the Battle of Điện Biên Phủ.


The Geneva Conference, in 1954, divided Vietnam into 2 parts at the 17th parallel with the Democratic Republic of Vietnam in the North and the Republic of Vietnam in the South. War between the two Vietnam states soon took place in the country. However, considerable efforts were carried out to improve rice production in both parts of the country during the period from 1954 to 1974.

In North Vietnam, agrarian reform was implemented and in 1958, 810,000 hectares of rice fields were redistributed to over 2million households (Bergeret 1999). Between 1954 and 1959 farm production underwent rapid growth and in 1959, North Vietnam produced about 4.5 million tons of rice . Per capita rice production in North Vietnam increased from approximately 250 kg in 1954 to 300 kg in 1960 (Đào Thế Tuấn, 1997). Starting in 1959, collectivization was implemented. However, between 1960 and 1975, per capita rice production decreased from 300 kg to 240 kg because of population increase (Pillot 1995).

In South Vietnam, the first land reform limited the maximum size of rice land that a person could own to 100 ha in 1956 (Sheehan, 1988). In 1970 the second land reform based on “Land to the Tillers” law was carried out with the main aim of distributing about 1.5 million hectares, free of charge to about 800,000 farmers (Penniman, 1972). In Mekong Delta about 2.25 million hectares of rice were harvested annually. They include (1) 500,000 hectares of floating rice; (2) 250,000 hectares of double transplanted rice, and (3) 1.5 million hectares of single transplanted rice (Võ Tòng Xuân, 1975). High yielding (IR) rice varieties from the Philippines were introduced in 1968 and rice production in South Vietnam increased substantially from about 4.365 million tons in 1968 to about 7.157 million tons in 1972 (Table 5)

Table 5 Rice harvested area, yield and production in South Vietnam in 1968, 1970 and 1972 (Võ Tòng Xuân, 1975)




Harvested Area (million has)

– Local Varieties




– HY Varieties




– Total




Yield (tons/ha)

– Local Varieties




– HY Varieties




Production (million tons)

– Local Varieties




– HY Varieties




– Total




Comprehensive and systematic data on agriculture in different countries are available since 1961 in the database of the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAOSTAT). Based on FAOSTAT, the rice harvested area in the whole Vietnam increased from about 4.74 hectares in 1961 to 5.11 million hectares in 1974, while Vietnam’s rice production increased from 8.99 million in 1961 tons to 11.02 million tons in 1974. However, the increased rice production was not enough to provide food security to the population as Vietnam had been a net rice importer during this period (Table 6).

Table 6 Vietnam’s rice harvested area, rice production, and rice importation, from 1961 to 1974

Rice Harvested Area (million has)*

Paddy Rice Production (million tons)*

Quantity of Rice Import (million tons of milled rice)

Whole Vietnam*

South Vietnam only**

































































* from FAOSTAT; ** from Trần Văn Đạt (2002)

The country reunited in 1975 and since then it experienced stability and peaceful environment, except for Chinese invasion in 1979 and the disturbance in Cambodia, from 1979 to 1989. In 1975, rice production, which was about 10.29 million tonnes, could not meet the demand of the population of about about 48 million persons. With per capita rice production of only 214.5 kg paddy/person, government had to import more than 500,000 tonnes of milled rice (FAOSTAT).

From 1975 to 1980, programs were launched to reclaim the unused land in Mekong River Delta for rice production (Nguyễn Hửu Nghĩa, 1996) and to promote wide adoption of high yielding varieties. Consequently, Vietnam’s rice harvested area increased substantially, from 4.85 million ha in 1975 to 5.6 million ha in 1980. However, rice yield remained stagnated so that rice production did not increase substantially and government had to continue rice importation to meet the demand of the population (Nguyễn Sinh Cúc, 1996; Table 7).

Table 7 Vietnam’s rice harvested area, rice production, and balance between rice importation and rice exportation, from 1975 to 1980 (FAOSTAT)

Rice harvested area (million hectares)

Rice production (million tons)

Rice import – rice export

Value ((million tons of milled rice)

Note: Vietnam was an































In January 1981, Vietnam government promulgated the Instruction N 100 CT/TW, which was widely known as “contract 100”, which allowed farmers to manage the planting, caring and harvesting activities. In addition, the government intensified the development of irrigation to increased the irrigated agricultural land from 1.7 million hectares in 1980 to 2.5 million hectares in 1985 (FAOSTAT). Farmers were encouraged to apply fertilizer to rice so that the quantity of fertilizer consumed in the country in 1985 was about 385,600 tonnes (FAOSTAT). As a result, rice yield increased by 780 kg/ha during the period from 1980 to 1985. Consequently, rice production in 1985 was about 4 million tonnes of paddy rice than that in 1980, event with an increase of only 0.1 million hectares in the country rice harvested. However, during the period from 1981 to 1987 government of Vietnam had to imported rice for food security.

In 1988, the government decreed the Resolution N 10 or Renovation Resolution or Đổi Mới policy, through which farming households were recognized as economically autonomous units and farmers were allowed to own the means of production such as machinery, tools and other implements. In addition, land was contracted to farmers for a period of 10 to 15 years and, more importantly, market control was abolished to allow the trading of foods freely in open markets. Moreover, the Vietnam Bank of Agriculture (VBA) was established to provide loans and/or commercial credits to farmers. The numbers of water pumps, threshing machines and rice mills owned by farmers have increased substantially after 1987 (GSO, 1996) and irrigated agricultural land continued to expand to about 2.9 million hectares in 1990 (FAOSTAT). Consequently, farmers intensified rice cropping and planted two to three rice crops on the same pieces of land. Cropping intensification index increased from 1.33 in 1985 to 1.47 in 1990 (GSO, 1996).

Farmers also increased the rice area planted in winter-spring season when there is more solar radiation. Rice yield is generally high under conditions of high solar radiation (Văn Ngưu Nguyễn and De Datta, 1979). Also, farmers shifted the monsoon season to summer-autumn season in order to avoid floods in September and October (Nguyễn Sinh Cúc, 1996 and GSO, 1999). In 1991, the Ministry of Agriculture and Rural Development introduced hybrid rice production technologies (Trần Văn Đạt and Văn Ngưu Nguyễn, 1998). In 1993, the government decreed Resolution N 5, which extended the period of land use by farmers was to 50 years and allowed various rights related to land use such as land transfer, inheritance, use of land as collateral in obtaining loan, and others were modified to create favorable conditions for farmers. In 1988, Vietnam rice harvested area increased to 5.74 million hectares and its rice production was 17 million tons. However, Vietnam still imported about 0.11 million tons of milled rice in 1988 (FAOSTAT).

In 1989, Vietnam rice harvested area increased to 5.91 million hectares, the country’s rice production increased to 17 million tons, and the country became a net rice exporter with the balance between export and import of milled rice was 1.36 million tons. The country’s rice harvested area consistently increased to reach 7.36 million hectares, its rice production also consistently increased to 29.14 million tons, and its balance between export and import of milled rice was increased to 3.72 million tons in 1998 (Table 8)

Table 8 Vietnam’s rice harvested area, rice production, and balance between rice importation and rice exportation, from 1988 to 1998 (FAOSTAT)

Rice harvested area (million hectares)

Rice production (million tons)

Rice import – rice export

Value ((million tons of milled rice)

Note: Vietnam was an
























































The number of agricultural tractors used in the country increased rapidly to reach 145,850 units in 1999 (GSO 2000 and 2002). In 2001, about 2.53 million hectares of rice land were prepared with agricultural tractors. At the same times, series of early maturing (# 90 – 100 days), non-photo-periodic sensitive and high yielding varieties were made available for farmers.

In 2000, about 7.66 million hectares of rice were harvested in Vietnam. The country’s rice harvested area, however, started to decline from 7.66 million hectares in 2000 to 7.32 million hectares in 2005 and 7.51 million hectares in 2010. On the other hand, country’s rice yield continued to increase substantially from 4.23 tonnes/ha in 2000 to 4.88 tonnes/ha in 2005 and 5.32 tonnes/ha in 2010. Consequently country’s rice production increased from 32.52 million tonnes in 2000 to 35.83 million tonnes in 2005 and 39.98 million tonnes in 2010 (FAOSTAT). In 2010, rice production in Vietnam was ranked as the 5th largest in the world, after China, India, Indonesia, and Bangladesh. Vietnam had been a consistent net rice exporter during the period from 1999 to 2010. In 2004, rice export earned for the country about US$ 1 billion (GSO, 2006) and in 2010, Vietnam was the second largest rice exporter in the world, after Thailand.



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