HCM CITY – The Cửu Long (Mekong) Delta is expanding its shrimp – rice farming areas as the cultivation model is efficient and sustainable, adapts to climate change, and is environmentally friendly.
The delta, the country’s largest rice and seafood producer, is normally affected by saltwater intrusion from the sea via river mouths in coastal areas in the dry season. Farmers cannot grow rice in most coastal areas in the dry season, but the shrimp – rice farming model can be used in these areas.
Farmers use fresh water, mostly rainwater, to grow rice in the rainy season, and let saltwater enter the rice fields to breed shrimp in the same rice field during the dry season.
The delta has more than 220,700ha of shrimp – rice farming areas, with Kiên Giang Province accounting for 102,486ha, the largest area, according to provincial departments of agriculture and rural development.
In Kiên Giang, the shrimp – rice farming area increased from 12,300ha in 2000 to 60,000ha in 2010 and to 102,486ha at present.
Lê Văn Dũng, head of the Kiên Giang Agriculture Extension Centre’s Information and Technology Transfer Division, said that Kiên Giang in recent years has turned thousands of hectares of rice farming areas into shrimp – rice farming areas.
Shrimp – rice farming is seen as a smart farming model and is zoned for sustainable development. “The centre provides cultivation techniques to farmers,” he said.
Shrimp – rice farming is environmentally friendly as farmers use few chemicals. After each shrimp crop cultivation, the residue of shrimp waste and organisms becomes fertiliser for field soil. After each rice crop cultivation, shrimp have few diseases because disease pathogens are destroyed during rice cultivation.
In Bến Tre Province, shrimp – rice farming in coastal areas has increased farmers’ incomes two to three times higher than from growing only rice.
Phan Văn Chí, who farms shimp and rice in his 8,000sq.m field in Bến Tre’s Thạnh Phú District, said his income has increased two times compared to rice farming only. He earns a profit of more than VNĐ100 million (US$4,400) a year.
Thạnh Phú District set up the Thạnh Phú Rice – Shrimp Co-operative that helps guarantee outlets for the co-operative’s members.
Đào Công Thương, chairman of the Thạnh Phú People’s Committee, said the model is sustainable and efficient. It offers an average profit of VNĐ70 – 80 million ($3,000 – 3,500) per hectare a year and is adapted to climate change.
The district is encouraging farmers to expand the areas of shrimp – rice farming and offer tourism services related to the model.
Bến Tre has about 2,500ha of shrimp – rice farming areas and has potential to expand to 15,000ha, according to the province’s Agriculture Extension Centre.
In Bạc Liêu Province, farmers have 39,000ha of shrimp – rice this year. Of the number, nearly 10,000ha are planted with ST24 and ST25, two of the world’s best rice varieties in 2019, according to the province’s Department of Agriculture and Rural Development.
Local authorities in Bạc Liêu have urged farmers to grow more ST24 and ST25 varieties to develop the province’s brand names for fragrant rice and clean shrimp.
Lê Văn Tính, who began growing ST24 rice variety in Bạc Liêu’s Hồng Ngự District this year, said many local farmers switched to ST24 and ST25 rice varieties this year after local authorities gave farmers rice seeds and instruction in farming techniques on how to grow the varieties.
Last year Bạc Liêu set up three model shrimp – rice farming areas with a combined area of 150ha for intercropping clean rice and shrimp.
Lưu Hoàng Ly, director of the Bạc Liêu Department of Agriculture and Rural Development, said the province would expand the shrimp – rice farming area to more than 43,000ha in 2025.
To reach the target, the department is providing techniques for farmers to produce rice in large quantities to meet market demand at home and abroad, and increase value. The department will also act as a link between farmers and rice companies to secure outlets for farmers.
Local authorities in the delta’s provinces are seeking capital to build irrigation projects for shrimp – rice farming areas to improve efficiency since most localities in the delta have imperfect irrigation systems.
Most farmers in coastal areas raising shrimp and cultivating rice on the same fields still depend on rainwater.
Kiên Giang Province’s Vĩnh Thuận District has 10,000ha of shrimp – rice fields but farmers still depend on natural weather conditions for their rice and shrimp cultivation.
Võ Hoàng Nguyên, head of the Vĩnh Thuận Bureau of Agriculture and Rural Development, said the district’s irrigation system is imperfect and the supply of fresh water still depends on rainwater.
Cà Mau Province has about 36,00ha of shrimp – rice farming areas this year but most of the areas have weak irrigation systems, according to the province’s Irrigation Sub-department.
Nguyễn Long Hoai, head of the sub-department, said that since most canals in shrimp – rice farming areas are open canals, saltwater enters the rice fields, damaging the crop, when hot weather and drought occurs early.
In Bạc Liêu Province, Giá Rai Town has spent nearly VNĐ50 billion ($2.2 million) to build an irrigation system for shrimp – rice farming.
The National Agriculture Extension Centre has given VNĐ4 billion ($174,000) to Bạc Liêu to develop the model.
Last month, the Ministry of Agriculture and Rural Development began operation of the first phase of the Cái Lớn – Cái Bé irrigation system, the delta’s largest, on a trial basis.
The Cái Lớn – Cái Bé irrigation system is expected to serve a total area of 384,120ha of agriculture and aquaculture in Cà Mau, Bạc Liêu, Sóc Trăng, Hậu Giang and Kiên Giang provinces in the delta. – VNS