Thursday, June 20, 2024

Mekong Delta seeks sustainable future for rice industry with circular economy workshop

  • Global experts addressed the challenges of rice production in the Mekong River Delta. 
  • The primary issue is the vast amount of straw rice farming produces.
  • Experts explored a circular economy approach involving innovative uses for rice straw and reducing environmental impact.

Can Tho City, Vietnam (7 June 2024)—Experts from international organizations and the public and private sectors discussed developing a circular economy based on rice production and processing to ensure the sustainability of the rice industry in the Mekong River Delta (MRD).

Every year, the region generates a massive 24 million tons of straw as a byproduct of rice farming. However, only 30% or 7.4 million tons are collected, while the rest are burned or buried in the fields. These practices cause environmental pollution and emissions of methane and other greenhouse gases.

According to Deputy Director for South of the Crop Production Department Le Thanh Tung, this is the primary challenge for the MRD, Vietnam's rice powerhouse. Mr. Tung proposed a circular economy to minimize waste and environmental damage while boosting agriculture's economic benefits.

A key part of the circular economy is finding new uses for rice straw and other byproducts. By converting rice waste into organic fertilizer, animal feed, and mushroom-growing medium, the Mekong Delta can create a sustainable system that produces high-quality products while reducing its environmental footprint.

Yvonne Pinto, director general of the International Rice Research Institute (IRRI), emphasized the crucial role of a sustainable and circular rice cultivation system in ensuring food security and mitigating the impacts of climate change.

"We believe that with the cooperation and commitment of all stakeholders, we can build a sustainable future for Vietnam's rice industry," said Dr. Pinto. She cited IRRI's experience of successful stakeholders' cooperation in Can Tho, particularly with New Green Farm.

"IRRI has demonstrated the economic and environmental benefits of mechanized rice straw composting alongside innovative business model development," Dr. Pinto added. "We are confident that the proven advantages of this technology will lead to large-scale adoption and a shift towards organic farming practices in the Mekong Delta Region in the coming years."

Various stakeholders also discussed ways to mobilize international suppor and secure private resources, policies to develop further and institutionalize a robust circular economy, and strategies to elevate the well-being of rice farmers, mainly smallholders, by increasing their income through these innovative practices.

Ministry of Agriculture and Rural Development Vice Minister Tran Thanh Nam encouraged the Vietnam Rice Industry Association (VIETRISA) to call on seed and fertilizer producers, agricultural supplies providers, and rice buyers to join in building a standard circular economy model within the government's sustainable development for the MRD region.

The Development of a Circular Economy in Rice Production and Processing Workshop was conducted by MARD, IRRI, and the Vietnam Rice Industry Association. This activity is part of the Mekong-Republic of Korea Cooperation Fund-supported Rice Straw-based Circular Economy (RiceEco) and the CGIAR Initiative on Asian Mega-Deltas.


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