Vietnam benefits from rice research successes

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Rice research and the development of new varieties has helped Vietnam increase its output annually since the 1980s, making it the world's second largest exporter of the grain, a research institute said.

Between 1985 and 2009, rice farmers in southern Vietnam achieved yield increases of 9.8 percent and gained an additional US$127 per hectare annually, according to the International Rice Research Institute (IRRI).

By comparison, the annual benefits for Indonesia and the Philippines were $76 and $52 respectively.

IRRI said its rice breeding benefits in the three countries reached $1.46 billion during the 25-year period and around 42 percent of the benefits, or $610 million, flowed directly to Vietnam.

"Rice is the staple food in Vietnam like in most Asian countries. The Vietnamese government recognized its importance and formed partnerships with countries and research institutions, including IRRI, to help the country develop its rice sector," according to the Philippines-based institute.

"Vietnam has been one of IRRI's key partners because of the strong response from the government in testing and adapting IRRI breeding material and adopting modern varieties," said Dr. Robert Zeigler, IRRI's director general.

IRRI has been collaborating with Vietnam since 1963. The institute cited a recent study by the Australian Center for International Agricultural Research as saying that 15.9 million hectares of harvested area from 1985 to 2009 were planted with leading rice varieties given directly by IRRI.

The Vietnam Food Association has said rice exports may reach a record 7 million tons this year.

Research collaboration ongoing

An IRRI press release quoted Dr. Bui Ba Bong, vice minister of agriculture and rural development, said IRRI the varieties directly provided by IRRI "are of great assistance" to Vietnam.

"Today, as Vietnam develops its own lines, IRRI continually provides parental lines for our Vietnamese rice scientists to develop highly suitable varieties for the conditions in Vietnam," he said.

Bong said Vietnam still has various collaborative programs with IRRI, including pest and disease management, sustainable farming systems, and conserving the genetic diversity of rice, with breeding new rice varieties remaining a priority.

"Today, we are collaborating with IRRI on the development and use of material for high yield, good grain quality, and tolerance of biotic and abiotic stresses such as drought, salt, and submergence," Dr. Nguyen Thi Lang, head of the Genetics and Plant Breeding Department of the Cuu Long Delta Rice Research Institute, was quoted by the IRRI press release as saying.

In 2010, Prime Minister Mr. Nguyen Tan Dung presented IRRI with a prestigious First Class Friendship Order, one of the highest honors Vietnam bestows on an international organization.

In addition, nine IRRI scientists were presented with Merit Medals "For the cause of science and technology development of Vietnam" and another six received Merit Medals "For the cause of agriculture and rural development of Vietnam."

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