At a seminar on using science and technology to improve agricultural productivity and quality held in Can Tho city last week, Deputy Minister Tran Van Tung said the Mekong Delta plays an important role in the country’s agricultural production, contributing 55 percent of the country’s rice output, 69 percent of seafood and 70 percent of fruits.
It also accounts for more than 90 percent of rice exports and 60 percent of seafood exports.
But much of it is sold as raw products at low value. Inconsistent quality is a problem that plagues the region.
Climate change and global integration have also adversely impacted the delta’s agricultural production, Tung said.
Droughts, floods and saltwater intrusion, often an impact of climate change, have greatly affected productivity and quality.
In this context, besides finding measures to mitigate the impacts of climate change and mapping out programmes and policies to speed up restructure of the sector, quickly ramping up the use of technology is imperative to develop smart agriculture in the region, he said.
Using advanced technologies for growing crops, harvesting, processing and post-harvest preservation would improve productivity and quality, reduce costs, improve competitiveness, and contribute to making agriculture sustainable, he said.
Talking about solutions for boosting agricultural development in the delta, Prof Nguyen Bao Ve, a former head of Cần Thơ University’s agriculture faculty, said communication is the main requirement in changing the mindsets of farmers.
The concept of choosing farming as a job when not knowing what to do is no longer viable since farmers these days need to master the use of agricultural machinery and know how to use technology, he said.
Farmers need to actively improve their understanding by constantly learning about technology and science, he said.
Buhler Group executive Manuel Murenhoff said farmers do not pay due attention to post-harvest preservation, instead using rudimentary vehicles to transport their produce, resulting in large volumes of spoilage.
Besides, preserving fruits and vegetables at unsuitable temperatures makes them vulnerable to bacterial infections, he said.
That is why the quality of Vietnamese farm produce usually deteriorates when they are transported long distances and for long periods, he said.
The current 8 percent rate of post-harvest losses is too high and should be reduced to less than 6 percent by using technology, including harvesting with machinery, transporting farm produce by specialised means and storage in standardised warehouses, he said.
Investing in modern machinery is difficult for individual households, but not so when farmers join hands through co-operatives or clubs, he said.
He pointed out that there is another possible solution, businesses investing in facilities and leasing them out to farmers.
He also introduced a “Smart Farm Data" model in which farmers use electronic equipment to monitor their crops instead of going to the field.
The seminar also discussed brand building.
Nguyen Phu Cuong, general director of Dona Biotechnology Development JSC (Dona-Techno), said consumers are willing to pay high prices for branded products.
To build brands, people in the agricultural sector must always be aware of clean agricultural production by applying technology, strictly following good agricultural practices and enabling traceability of their products, he said.
They also need to invest in improving their packaging, he said.
Delegates called for co-operation with research institutes and schools to get high-quality and -yielding seeds.
Farmers should join hands to create large-scale farms to make it easier to use machines all the way from the sowing to harvesting stages and avoid being exploited by traders or price drops following a bumper harvest and vice versa, they said.
The seminar was part of the International Agriculture Festival and Fair of the Mekong Delta held in Can Tho from March 9 to 13.
It features over 300 booths set up by nearly 150 local and international exhibitors operating in the agricultural and related sectors.
Held by the Ministries of Science and Technology and Agriculture and Rural Development and other organisation, the event aims to support agricultural development in the delta through research and use of technology and building brands.
It also features an exhibition of farm produce and technologies, a programme to connect suppliers and buyers of agricultural technologies and equipment, a cooking contest, and other events.