Rice is a lifeline for the wellbeing of the urban and rural population in Vietnam. 13 million farm households (more than 60% of the entire population) produce around 28 million tons of milled rice on 7.4 million ha every year. The core production and productivity region is the Mekong Delta, where annual productivity surpasses an impressive 6 tons of rice/ha.
However, the achievements are threatened by a set of different factors leading to a decline of the rice industry. Basically, farmers are losing interest in cultivating rice owing to very low financial returns and ever rising input costs. The rapid reduction of arable land due to industrialization and urbanization is a constant non-reversible trend. Increasing occurrence of natural disasters caused by climate change (acidity, drought, water scarcity, sea water level rise, salt water intrusion) is taking tolls on rice growing areas and depressing yields in the affected region (e.g. Mekong Delta).
Rice farming and marketing is very anonymous. Bulk production reaches bulk markets with very little chance for quality being awarded through higher prices. Price signals of the market, which are important for farmers and might contribute to rising farm income, do not reach the farming community. The entire chain is basically technically operational but not fit for change in the environment. Where in other agro-food sectors there is significant progress in improving the entire value chain, the change has not yet started in the rice market. In combination with rising health concerns of a poor and mainly rice-consuming population there is an urgent need for a change of the entire rice sector in Vietnam.
Changes in the present rice industry require coordinated efforts and can only be achieved over several years. The willingness to adopt and to change the rice pattern is only gradually and slowly growing.
To overcome the aforementioned issues, the rice sector needs to improve the sustainability of rice production, marketing and consumption, thus the entire value chain needs to be considered. Without any doubts Vietnam has an excellent know-how and competence in growing rice, but is trailing behind on topics of ecological sustainability and modernization of agriculture. This is the entry point for the BRIA project.