Vietnam’s rice production in near future

VIETNAM’S RICE PRODUCTION IN NEAR FUTURE

Nguyễn Văn Ngưu

Rice production in Vietnam obtained great achievement since 1988, the year when Vietnam turned from a net rice imported country to a net rice export country. In fact, the recent past, Vietnam has been a major rice exporting country in the world. This great achievement of rice production has contributed to the national food security as rice is the main staple food of Vietnamese.

However, factors affecting rice production have undergone substantial changes in the recent past, along with changes in economy, society and global climate. The following pages try to first analyze the contributions of various factors to the success of rice production in the recent past and then propose some possible technical solutions for rice production in Vietnam in near future.

I. FACTORS OF THE ACHIVEMENT OF RICE PRODUCTION SINCE 1986

In 1988, Vietnam produced 17.0 million tons of rice and became a net rice exporter. Since then, rice production in Vietnam increased rapidly and consistently to reach 19.62 million tons in 1991, 24.96 million tons in 1995, 32.52 million tons in 2000, 35.83 million tons in 2005, 39.98 million tons in 2010, and 45.09 million tons in 2015 (Table 1). Rice production in 2015 was 2.64 times of that in 1988. The significant increase in rice production during the 1988 to 2015 was a result of the increase in rice yield and, to a lesser magnitude, the increase in rice harvested area.

Rice yield increased from 2.90 tons/ha in 1988 to 4.24 tons/ha in 2000 and 5.76 tons/ha in 2015. The increase in rice yield during the period from 1988 to 2015 was due to the following factors: (a) the adoption of high yielding and hybrid rice varieties, (b) the increase in rice irrigated area, (c) the increase in fertilizer application, and (d) the increase use of tractors for land preparation.

On the other hand, the rice harvested area increased from 5.7 4million hectares in 1988 to 7.66 million hectares in 2000 and then fluctuated from 7.32 and 7.82 million hectares during the period from 2000 to 2015 (Table 1). The increase in rice harvested area during the period from 1988 to 2000 was due to the following factors: (a) the wide adoption of early maturing rice varieties, (b) the availability of irrigation for rice cropping, and (c) the increase use of tractors for land preparation.

Table 1: Rice production, harvested area and yield during the period from 1986 to 2015 (Source of data: FAOSTAT)

Rice production (M tons)

Rice harvested area (M has)

Rice yield (ts/ha)

1986

16.00

5.70

2.81

1987

15.10

5.60

2.70

1988*

17.00

5.74

2.90

1991

19.62

6.30

3.11

1995

24.96

6.76

3.69

2000

32.52

7.66

4.24

2001

32.10

7.49

4.29

2005

35.83

7.32

4.89

2010

39.98

7.51

5.32

2015

45.09

7.82

5.76

*Vietnam turned from a net rice importing country to a net rice exporting country in 1988.

I.1 Adoption of High Yielding and Hybrid Rice Varieties in Rice Production

Before 1966, rice varieties planted in Vietnam were of traditional, low yielding and mostly medium to late maturing varieties. In 1966, IR 8, a high yielding variety developed by the International Rice Research Institute, was imported and tested at Long Dinh Rice Experimental Station in South Vietnam and at harvest IR8 yielded about 4 tons/ha, while traditional rice varieties yielded only 2 tons/ha (Tran Van Dat, 2002).

IR 8 was named as Than Nong (TN) 8 in South Vietnam and later as Nong Nghiep (NN) 8 in North Vietnam. Series of high yielding rice varieties such as IR36, IR42, IR48, IR2070-734-3, IR2071-179-3, IR2307-247-2-2-3, IR9129-192-2-3-5, IR2823-309-5-6, and IR2797-115-3 were then imported and planted in late 1970 to early 1980 (Darymple, 1986). In 1989, lead rice varieties in Vietnam were IR64, IR17499, IR50404, DT10, CR103, Q5 and Khang Dan (Nguyen Van Bo and Bui Chi Buu, 2010). The area planted to high yielding rice varieties increased greatly from 0.96 million hectares in 1981 to 7.03 million hectares in 2002 (Table 2).

In addition to HY rice varieties, in 1991 the imported hybrid rice varieties planted in about 100 hectares in Northern Region yielded about 1 ton/ha higher than high yielding rice varieties (Nguyen Cong Tan, 1994). The area planted to hybrid rice varieties increased to about 102,800 hectares in 1996 (Quach Ngoc An, 1998) and 710,000 hectares in 2009 (Nguyen Van Bo and Bui Chi Buu, 2010). Hybrid rice varieties were planted mostly in Northern Vietnam.

Data in table 2 show a close relationship between the area planted to high yielding rice varieties and the rice yield during the period from 1980 to 2002. Rice yield increased from 2.20 tons/ha in 1981 when the area planted to high yielding rice varieties was 0.96 million hectares to 4.59 tons/ha in 2002 when the area planted to high yielding rice varieties was 7.03 million hectares.

Table 2 Area planted to High Yielding (HY) rice varieties during the period from 1980 to 2002 (Data from FAOSTAT)

Area planted to High Yielding rice varieties (M ha)

Rice yield (tons/ha)

1981

0.96

2.20

1986

1.77

2.81

1991

3.23

3.11

1996

5.80

3.77

2001

6.89

4.29

2002

7.03

4.59

I.2 Adoption of Early Maturing Varieties in Rice Production

The adoption of early maturing rice varieties for planting has been growing with time. The growth duration of 14 rice varieties that were released for rice cultivation during the period from 1968 to 1990 were shown in Table 3.

Table 3 Growth duration of 14 rice varieties released for cultivation during 1968-1990 period (Source of data: FAO Rice Information and Nguyen Van Luat et al 2010).

Variety Name

Year released for planting

Growth duration (days)

IR36

1968

110

IR50404

1972

86

CR 203 or IR8423

1985

115-140

DT 10

1985

115-175

IR64

1985

110

79-1

1990

125-145

A 20

1990

125-150

C 70

1990

125-165

Bacyou 64

1990

125-150

Shanyou 63

1990

125-140

Shanyou Gui 99

1990

125-145

OM 44-5

1990

106-120

OM 576

1990

90-105

OM 59-7

1990

90-105

The adoption of these early maturing rice varieties facilitated the intensification of rice cropping or the growing of 2 or more rice crops on the same area in a year and the rice cropping intensification increased the rice harvested area, thus rice production. Although during 1993-2002 period the rice land in Vietnam was less than 4.26 million hectares, the adoption of early maturing rice varieties for crop intensification, together with the increase in irrigation facilities for rice production, has increased (a) the rice harvested area from 6.55 million hectares in 1993 to 7.50 million hectares in 2002 and (b) rice production from 22.83 million tons in 1993 to 34.44 million tons in 2002 (Table 4).

Table 4 Rice land, rice harvested area and rice production from 1993 to 2002 (Source of data: Thong Ke Nong Nghiep 2003 and Source of data: FAOSTAT)

Rice land (M ha)

Rice harvested area (M ha)

Rice production (M tons)

1993

4.25

6.55

22.83

1995

4.20

6.76

24.96

1997

4.19

7.09

27.52

2000

4.26

7.66

32.52

2002

4.06

7.50

34.44

In the largest rice growing area of the country – the Mekong River Delta, early maturing rice varieties such as IR50404, VND95-20 (90-102 days), Jasmine85 (95-110 days) and OM4218 (90–97 days) were planted on large area in many years. In 2007, IR50404 was planted to about 15% of the total rice area in the Mekong Delta River. The IR50404 has a growth duration of about 80-86 days and a stable yield ranging from 6 to 8.5 tons/ha. In 2009, the following early rice varieties were released for cultivation: OM 4900 (105 days) OM 6561-12 (90-95 days) and OM 5199-1 (105-115 days).

I.3 Increase in Irrigated Rice Area in Rice Production

Water is important for rice crop to grow, develop and produce high yield. Vietnamese rice farmers consider water is the most important factor of successful rice production and they expressed in the following Tuc Ngu

Nhất nước, nhì phân, tam cần, tứ giống

Or

First is water, second is fertilizer, third is hard working, fourth is rice variety

After the Vietnam War ended in 1975, largescale land reclamation and irrigation construction for rice production was implemented (Bui Ba Bong, 2010). Consequently, the irrigated rice area in Vietnam increased from 1.92 million hectares in 1976 to 3.72 million hectares in 1997 (Table 5). The increase in irrigation facilities encourage farmers to plant high yielding varieties and consequently, the area planted to high yielding varieties increased from 0.3 million hectares in 1976 to 6.17 million hectares in 1997 and this contributed partly to the increase in rice yield from 2.23 tons/ha in 1976 to 3.88 tons/ha in 1997. Consequently, rice production increased from 11.82 million tons in 1976 to 27.52 million tons in 1997 (Table 5).

Table 5 Irrigated rice area, area planted to high yielding rice varieties, rice yield, and rice production from 1976 to 1997 (FAOSTAT)

Irrigated rice area (M ha)

Area planted to high yielding rice varieties (M ha)

Rice yield (tons/ha)

Rice production (M tons)

1976

1.92

0.30

2.23

11.82

1980

2.25

0.93

2.08

11.64

1985

2.51

1.62

2.78

15.87

1988

2.63

2.10

2.96

17.00

1991

3.33

3.23

3.11

19.62

1995

3.52

5.15

3.69

24.96

1997

3.72

6.17

3.88

27.52

I.4 Fertilizer Application and Tractor Use in Land Preparation in Rice Production

Fertilizers provide nutrient to rice crop and thus positively contribute to increase in rice yield. On the other hands, tractors improve land preparation and better land preparation help in weed control and releasing of nutrient for rice crop growth and development, thus contribute to rice yield increase. The rapid land preparation also helped in crop intensification or higher rice planted/harvested area.

Available data show that the total quantity applied in agricultural production in the whole country increased from about 576,140 tons in 1988 to 2,267,000 tons in 2000 and then decreased to 1,984,900 tons in 2005. On the other hand, the number of tractors used in land preparation in agriculture increased from 22,405 units in 1988 to 162,746 units in 2000. As a result, rice yield increased from 2.96 tons/ha in 1988 to 4.89 tons/ha in 2005 and rice production increased from (Table 6).

Table 6 Quantity of fertilizers applied in agriculture, tractor units used in agriculture, and rice yield during period from 1988 to 2005 (Source of data: FAOSTAT)

Quantity of fertilizer applied in agriculture (tons)

Tractors (units)

Yield (tons/ha)

Rice production (M tons)

1988

576,140

22,405

2.96

17.00

1990

560,280

25,086

3.18

19.22

1995

1,223,700

97,817

3.69

24.96

2000

2,267,000

162,746

4.24

32.52

2005

1,984,900

4.89

35.83

 

II. POSSIBLE CONSTRAINTS OF RICE PRODUCTION IN THE NEAR FUTURE

In the recent past, rice production in Vietnam has been facing following developments that are threatening its sustainable development:

  1. The conversion of rice land for housing and infrastructure development: With the growth in population and national economy, rice land was increasingly used for construction of houses, factories, enterprises, and road networks. Le Hong Nhu (1999) reported that about 20,000 hectares of rice land have been used annually for these activities.
  2. The soil degradation brought about by long-term high cropping intensity: The intensification of rice cultivation by growing two to three rice crops on a same pieces of land for long period of time lead to a reduction in the fertility of rice soil, an increase in pressures of insects and diseases, and the deterioration of the environment due to the release nitrate from applied fertilizer and other chemicals from pesticides.
  3. The rise in sea level and drought under global climate change: In 2016, Vietnam lost more than $1.6 billion because of floods and drought that destroyed at least 300 million tons of rice in the delta. The tide on the Hau River, one of the two tributaries of the Mekong, recently reached 2.23 meters. Drought and salinization have occurred frequently in Tien Giang, Ben Tre, Tra Vinh, and Soc Trang provinces.
  4. The reduction of water and alluvial from upper river: The Mekong River Delta is facing the threat from increasing numbers of hydropower dams being built on Mekong River mainstream as the dams prevent vital sediment/alluvial from reaching the Delta.
  5. The Mekong River Delta is subsiding: Fueled by a market-based economy, groundwater extraction had been greatly increased and this is causing the Mekong River Delta to subside about two to three centimeters each year or about 10 times faster than the sea level rise (Internet site 1). Results of a study released in 2016 by the Vietnam Association of Hydrogeology said that by 2015, the level of groundwater in the Mekong Delta had dropped by 15 meters. The subsidence of the Mekong River Delta is also caused by the increase in mining of sand for use as a construction material and for other purposes (Internet site 2).

III. SOME SOLUTIONS FOR RICE PRODUCTION IN NEAR FUTURE

It is estimated that Vietnam population will be about 109 million people in 2030 and about 36 million tons of rice will be needed to provide food security to this population. In 2015, Vietnam produce 45.09 million tons of rice and this indicates that rice production has a great capacity to provide food security for the population up to 2030.

However, the rice harvested area has fluctuated around 7.4 to 7.7 million hectare per year since 2000. The increase in rice production after 2000, therefore, was due mainly to the increase in rice yield. In 2017, Vietnam’s rice yield was 5.54 tons/ha, which was higher than world average yield and was the top yield in Southeast Asia (Table 7). The high yield in 2017 suggests that there is limited (or even no) possibility to further increase rice yield in Vietnam in near future.

Rice yield in Vietnam in 2017 was still lower than that in Australia (9.82 tons/ha), South Korea (7.00 tons/ha), China (6.90 tons/ha), and Japan (6.67 tons/ha). However, it is rather difficult for Vietnam to obtain such high yield because of the following technical factors: (a) the rice ripening duration in Vietnam is 30 days, while it is 40 to 45 days in Australia, South Korea, China, and Japan and (b) the temperature during rice ripening period in Australia, South Korea, China, and Japan is much lower than that in Vietnam

Table 7 Rice yields in selected countries in 2017 and their ranking

Yield (kg/ha)

World Ranking Position

World average yield

4.60

Vietnam

5.54

25th

Indonesia

5.15

30th

Laos

4.25

46th

Malaysia

4.21

48th

Philippines

4.00

52th

Burma

3.79

55th

Cambodia

3.50

62th

Thailand

3.14

68th

Brunei

2.55

86th

Australia

9.82

1st

South Korea

7.00

11th

China

6.90

12th

Japan

6.67

15th

However, the sustainability and profitability of rice production in Vietnam could still be improved with the following technical solutions:

  1. The development of rice-other crops and rice-aquaculture production (such as shrimp and fish production) to increase the income of farmers, especially in the Mekong River Delta: The profit made from the production of 3 rice crops per year in Mekong River Delta presently is about 35 to 40 million of Vietnamese dong or 1,500 to 2,000 dollars/ha/year, which is much less than the income from rice production in Thailand, Philippines, and Indonesia. Rice-other crops and rice-aquaculture production systems could increase the income of farmers
  2. Development of salt resistance rice varieties for rice production especially areas where salinization occurred due to the rising of sea water level under global climate change.
  3. Application of Rice Integrated Crop Management Systems such as the “1 Must Do, 5 reductions” of the International Rice Research Institute in order to optimize rice productivity and to reduce the negative environmental impact of rice production. The focus of “1 Must Do, 5 reductions” is to use certified seeds and to reduce seed rates, nitrogen fertilizer inputs, pesticide use, water use, and post-harvest losses (Internet site 3)
  4. Application of the alternate wetting and drying technology (AWD) to reduce water use for drought resistance/avoidance: In AWD, the irrigation water is applied at a few days after the disappearance of the ponded. Consequently, the field gets alternately flooded and non-flooded. The number of days of non-flooded soil between irrigations can vary from 1 to more than 10 days depending on the number of factors such as soil type, weather, and crop growth stage. AWD can be started a few weeks (1−2 weeks) after transplanting. When many weeds are present, AWD should be postponed for 2−3 weeks to assist suppression of the weeds by the ponded water and improve the efficacy of herbicide. Local fertilizer recommendations as for flooded rice can be used. Apply fertilizer N preferably on the dry soil just before irrigation. From one week before to a week after flowering, however, the field should be kept flooded, topping up to a depth of 5 cm as needed. After flowering, during grain filling and ripening, the water level can be allowed to drop again to 15 cm below the soil surface before re-irrigation (Internet sit 4).

REFERENCES

  • Internet site 1 = https://e.vnexpress.net/news/news/mekong-delta-sinking-as-groundwater-gets-depleted-3822417.html
  • Internet site 2 = https://e.vnexpress.net/news/news/as-sand-mining-grows-asia-s-deltas-are-sinking-water-experts-warn-3813807.html
  • Internet site 3 = http://ghgmitigation.irri.org/technologies/1-must-do-5-reductions
  • Internet site 4 = http://www.knowledgebank.irri.org/training/fact-sheets/water-management/saving-water-alternate-wetting-drying-awd
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