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Co-op­er­a­tion be­tween var­i­ous groups has made corn grow­ing a suc­cess on poor south­ern rice land - and chal­lenged cli­mate change.

LONG AN — The ini­tial phase of a pi­lot project to cul­ti­vate corn on large-scale farms in the Mekong Delta prov­ince of Long An’s Ñöùc Hoøa Dis­trict, where the soil is un­favourable for rice cul­ti­va­tion, has yielded pos­i­tive re­sults for farm­ers.

The project on 100ha in three com­munes of Long An’s Ñöùc Hoøa Dis­trict will be ex­panded to 500ha next year and to 2,500 ha by 2018 in ar­eas more suit­able for grow­ing corn.

As a re­sult of the project’s suc­cess, a dry­ing fac­tory with a ca­pac­ity of 28- tonne batches, opened in the prov­ince ’ s Ñöùc Hoøa Dis­trict near the corn fields. The fac­tory will ex­pand to 2,500 square me­tres in the near fu­ture.

Ecofarm, the Viet­namese company that owns the fac­tory, pro­vides crop strains, agri­cul­tural ma­te­ri­als and tech­ni­cal support in seed­ing and har­vest­ing for the project.

The prov­ince has also been work­ing with Ecofarm and the State, sci­en­tists, en­ter­prises and farm­ers on sus­tain­able de­vel­op­ment, which is part of the Gov­ern­ment’s na­tional agri­cul­tural ini­tia­tive.

Nguyeãn Minh Trieát, gen­eral di­rec­tor of Ecofarm, said the dry­ing fac­tory was built to cre­ate a self-con­tained pro­duc­tion chain and help im­prove the qual­ity of agri­cul­tural prod­ucts. He noted that some of the prov­ince’s el­e­vated ar­eas were not suit­able for rice cul­ti­va­tion.

Traàn Thò Huyeàn Nga, a farmer in Ñöùc Hoøa Dis­trict’s Taân Phuù Com­mune, who has been par­tic­i­pat­ing in the large-scale corn cul­ti­va­tion project with Ecofarm, said: “The open­ing of the dry­ing fac­tory was en­cour­ag­ing news for lo­cal farm­ers. I thought it was im- pos­si­ble.”

Be­fore the project be­gan, lo­cal farm­ers were not get­ting good prices for their crops, he said.

“ We get fer­tiliser from Ecofarm. I see that Ecofarm con­ducted thor­ough re­search about the arable land in the dis­trict, so the corn we cul­ti­vated grew well. We ap­pre­ci­ate the Gov­ern­ment and the company al­low­ing us to be in­volved in the project,” Nga said.

The pi­lot project is part of a Gov­ern­ment pro­gramme to re­struc­ture crop cul­ti­va­tion na­tion­wide.

The large-scale farm model has also been used in sev­eral other Mekong Delta prov­inces where crop cul­ti­va­tion has been shifted to rice.

The Vieät Nam Business Chal­lenge Fund ( VBCF) pro­vided VNÑ5.3 bil­lion ( US$ 252,000) from 2013 to 2015 to the pi­lot pro­gramme in Long An Prov­ince. Nguyeãn Hoàng Quang, Ecofarm Company ’ s chair­man, said: “Many peo­ple ad­vised me to not work with farm­ers be­cause there would be many dif­fi­cul­ties, but I see there is great op­por­tu­nity. The ques­tion in my mind is what could hap­pen if mil­lions more farm­ers were able to con­nect with en­ter­prises, sci­en­tists and lo­cal gov­ern­ments and cre­ate a value pro­duc­tion chain?”

Many projects

Quang, speak­ing to 60 rep­re­sen­ta­tive farm­ers from Mekong Delta prov­inces, said he hoped that many more farm­ers could pros­per from this kind of model.

Vuõ Tuaán Anh, man­ager of VBCF, said the or­gan­i­sa­tion sup­ported a to­tal of 21 projects sim­i­lar to the Ecofarm project.

The Ecofarm project not only fo­cused on sus­tain­able de­vel­op­ment by im­prov­ing in­comes of farm­ers, but also cre­ated con­di­tions for en­vi­ron­men­tally friendly prod­ucts and fur­ther green de­vel­op­ment in Vieät Nam, he said.

“We hope the new fac­tory will pro­duce more added value for farm­ers who are par­tic­i­pat­ing in the project. The model is con­sid­ered a launch­ing plat­form for Ecofarm to ex­pand the project in Long An and other prov­inces in the Mekong Delta,” Tuaán Anh said.

The project would also fo­cus on the post-har­vest­ing process, a weak link in agri­cul­tural pro­duc­tion in the coun­try. The Ecofarm fac­tory, for ex­am­ple, has helped farm­ers a great deal dur­ing posthar­vest, he added.

Dr. Nguyeãn Ñaêng Nghóa, di­rec­tor of the South­ern Cen­tre for Soil, Fer­tiliser and En­vi­ron­ment Re­search, said there had been sev­eral agri­cul­tural pro­duc­tion mod­els in Vieät Nam but few were like the large-scale cul­ti­va­tion model.

Nghóa, who has con­ducted re­search on soil and fer­tilis­ers for 40 years, said he was con­cerned that Viet Nam, with such a strong agri­cul­tural base, had to im­port a huge amount of corn and soya for pro­duc­tion ev­ery year.

Even though Vieät Nam had a high vol­ume of ex­ports, its weak­est area con­tin­ued to be post-har­vest process tech­nol­ogy, Nghóa said.

De­mand for corn

Nguyeãn Töôøng Linh, as­sis­tant vice pres­i­dent of the Feed In­gre­di­ents Trad­ing Business Group of C.P. Viet­nam Live­stock Cor­po­ra­tion, said that an­i­mal-feed pro­duc­ers must buy more than one mil­lion tonnes of corn and 40 per cent of the amount must be im­ported.

“Our fac­tory’s de­mand for corn is huge. Cur­rently, do­mes­tic farm­ers pro­duce two mil­lion tonnes of corn, but our fac­tory buys one mil­lion. House­hold pro­duc­tion does not meet the re­quired stan­dard,” Linh told Vieät Nam News.

The an­i­mal feed pro­ducer, which is part of the Thai-owned C.P. Group, has eight fac­to­ries na­tion­wide that use one mil­lion tonnes of corn ev­ery year. It im­ports 300,000 tonnes of corn a year.

The im­port de­mand for corn to pro­duce feed has in­creased an­nu­ally by 18 per cent in re­cent years. By 2020, the coun­try will need an an­nual 5.7 mil­lion tonnes.

Re­ly­ing heav­ily on im­ported re­sources leads to high prices for an­i­mal feed.

Be­tween 2014 and 2015, the Gov­ern­ment plans to con­vert 150,000ha from rice paddy fields to corn cul­ti­va­tion.

Dr. Nghóa said he ex­pected the large-scale cul­ti­va­tion model to be used by other en­ter­prises for trees such as cof­fee and pep­per, which were grown in the Cen­tral High­lands and other re­gions in the coun­try. —

Lo­cal farm­ers show sci­en­tists their corn field in the Mekong Delta ’ s Long An Prov­ince. Pos­i­tive re­sult­shave been recorded in the ini­tial phase of a pi­lot project to cul­ti­vate corn on large- scale farms in the prov­ince. — VNA/ VNS Photo Vaên Khaùnh

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