BẠC LIÊU – The Cửu Long (Mekong) Delta province of Bạc Liêu is promoting organic and other high-quality standards for rice and key agricultural products as well as agro-tourism services in a bid to raise farmers’ incomes.
The province aims to have 41,000ha rice under organic standards and 100,000ha of large-scale rice fields by 2025, or more than 51 per cent of the province's total rice growing areas.
More than 1,700ha will be devoted to disease-free areas producing high-quality rice seeds. Varieties like fragrant rice, specialty rice and saltwater-resistant rice will account for 92 per cent of the province's total rice growing areas.
According to Lưu Hoàng Ly, director of the province Department of Agriculture and Rural Development, 58,600ha of rice will be grown in the freshwater area located north of National Highway 1A. Shrimp – rice farming areas will be expanded to 43,000 – 48,000ha north of the highway.
Farmers are being encouraged to engage in sustainable intensive farming and advanced techniques, and follow environmental-protection measures such as decreased use of pesticides.
New rice varieties that have high yield and quality, are resistant to disease, and can adapt to climate change will be grown.
“Clean” vegetables will be planted under good agricultural practices (GAP) standards. Vegetables will also be grown in rice fields in rotation to improve farmers’ incomes, and high-value fruits will be grown for domestic consumption and exports.
Under the central government's Organic Agriculture Development Project for 2020 – 30, Bạc Liêu started two organic farming models last year, according to the province Department of Agriculture and Rural Development.
One farming model is the intercropping of black tiger shrimp, crab and fish in the same ponds in Đông Hải District on a total of 80ha in four communes.
Hồ Thanh Tuấn, head of the Đông Hải Bureau of Agriculture and Rural Development, said the model offered a profit of more than VNĐ80 million (US$3,500) per hectare a crop, VNĐ25 – 30 million ($1,100 -1,300) higher than traditional farming models.
"The most important thing is that the breeding environment is protected and the risk of disease is mitigated.”
The second farming model rotates the cultivation of shrimp and ST24 and ST25 rice varieties, two of the world's best quality rice, in the same fields, or grows only ST24 and ST25 rice varieties, on a total area of 3,560ha.
Võ Văn Thum, chairman of the Lộc Ninh Commune People's Committee in Hồng Dân District, said the shrimp – rice farming model had high profits, especially the ST24 and ST25 rice varieties.
"Outlets are guaranteed for farmers, so the model will be expanded," he said.
Under the 2020 – 30 project, the department will invest in infrastructure and strengthen State management in agricultural production, according to Ly, director of the province’s Department of Agriculture and Rural Development.
The province is seeking funds from the central Government to invest in irrigation, transport and power supply systems.
Besides high-quality agricultural products, the province is also developing agro-tourism services.
Farmer Phương Văn Sị in Bạc Liêu City's Vĩnh Trạch Đông Commune, for example, is offering tourism services at his 3.5ha jujube orchard. Tourists can help harvest ripe jujube, and eat and buy the fruit.
When jujube trees begin to bear fruit, Sị uses nets to cover the orchard to prevent pests from damaging the fruit. “This method produces clean fruit as the orchard does not use pesticides,” he said.
His jujube sells for prices 20 – 30 per cent higher than those planted under other methods.
The commune has five farming households offering agro-tourism services at fruit orchards.
In Bạc Liêu City's Vĩnh Trạch Đông and Hiệp Thành communes, 48 households offer tourism services at their orchards that have a total of 1,100 longan trees aged 100 years or more.
Cao Xuân Thu Vân, deputy chairwoman of the province People's Committee, said the province was promoting the value of old longan orchards by both preserving them and offering tourism services. It had encouraged orchard owners to develop homestay services.
The province is also encouraging salt farmers in Đông Hải District's Long Điền Đông Commune to offer tourism services. Bạc Liêu is the delta's largest salt producer and has nearly 1,600ha of salt.
The province is calling for investment in agro-tourism, including eco-tourism areas along the sea and rivers, and bird gardens. – VNS
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