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NEWS UPDATES Asean Affairs                                9  September 2011

Research outpaces Vietnam’s farming practices

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The agricultural sector has boosted productivity over the past few years and Vietnam is now among the leading exporters of rice and coffee, but it has yet to reach its full potential, according to experts.

They said the sector needed to apply modern technology and new higher-yielding and disease resistant varieties to boost production.

At a national conference on the application of science and technology in the agricultural sector from 2006-11 held last month, it was announced that Viet Nam had spent VND2.6 trillion (US$125 million) over the last five years on scientific research in agriculture and the use of the latest technologies.

Attendees heard that there had been 4,300 scientific studies on boosting production that included cultivating more disease resistant and productive crops.

However, experts heard that the findings of the studies had yet to be widely applied.

"There's a huge gap between scientific research in agriculture and the results on the farm because agricultural products have to be adapted and to meet local demand," Le Quoc Thanh, director of the Centre for Technology Development and Agricultural Extension under the Vietnam Academy of Agricultural Science.

In addition, he said that much of the research had been based on inaccurate and outdated information and that many of the suggestions impracticable.

The centre, which was established in 2010, was tasked with coming up with strategies to boost agricultural production. Thanh said a major drawback with many of the proposed strategies was that they could not be widely applied.

"That's where we come in. We can identify areas that would be suitable for new technology or new varieties of crops," he said. "For example, we have been able to work with scientists and local authorities in Yen Bai Province to establish a 100 ha area to cultivate Vietnamese japonica round rice."

In an interview, Nguyen Van Bo, director of the Viet Nam Academy of Agricultural Science, said that small-scale farmers were reluctant to embrace new technologies. They are also loath to change practices that were instilled generations' ago, he said.

"We have to create large-scale farms in order to meet the growing demand for agricultural products," he added.

A report, prepared by the academy, stated that VND617 billion ($29.6 million) had been allocated on 1,200 projects between 2006 and 2010. It said that scientists from the academy had studied and genetically engineered 260 new types of crops. However, it said that few of these new disease-resistant varieties had been planted.

Bo said research should focus on the sustainable development of important sectors such as rice, coffee and pepper.


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