Viet Nam

Viet Nam: Flooded fields mean Ha Noi will face produce shortage

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Ha Noi residents will face a vegetable shortage in the next couple of months, with many farming areas in and around the city having been submerged due to recent downpours.

There are many vegetable growing communes in the city's districts of Dong Anh, Thanh Tri and Tu Liem, which were greatly affected by flooding.

Experts warned that vegetables would be also be very expensive in the next few months.

A farmer in Soc Son District, Nguyen Thi Dung, lamented the loss of her entire crop of vegetables on her 1,500sq.m plot of land.

"The water level is as high as my neck. The flood has caused damage worth VND20 million (US$1,212)," said Dung.

Dung said that this was the first time she had seen such a heavy downpour.

"I am luckier than other farmers in my commune, because I have a vegetable shop here. I have to buy vegetables wholesale from Dong Anh District to sell retail for people," said Dung.

"I can get some profit but not enough to cover my loss," she said.

Chairman of the Vegetable Production and Processing Co-operative in Dong Anh District Tran Van May, said only rau muong (morning glory) survived the downpour, while other vegetables like cabbage and kohlrabi all were destroyed.

If the weather was better, farmers could cultivate vegetables after two weeks, said May. "Even after cultivation, new seeds are not likely to sprout when the ground is still so water-logged. If the weather continues to be bad in the coming days, the vegetable's growth period will increase from the normal 25 days to 45 days."

Trieu Thi Lan, a member of the Thanh Liet Safe Vegetable Production Co-operative, said all paths to gardens in the area had been submerged. In the first two days of the downpour, many co-operative members tried to wade through the water to harvest their crops and try to regain their capital as the price of vegetables increased 10 times.

"Now, the price is only two or three times higher than normal; there are few farmers wading through the water to harvest crops with prices not making it worth their effort," said Lan.

Many farmers fell ill after spending hours in floodwaters to cut their vegetables. Others tried to transport their wares to the market, but their motorbike engines broke down due to the water level.

"The money for recovering strength after illness and repairing motorbikes is higher than that from vegetables," said Lan.

Damage might not have been so bad and crops could have survived if investment had been made in a channelling system to divert water, said general director of the Ha Noi Investment and Agriculture Development Company Nguyen Minh Nguyet.

An agency should be established to regulate the market for agricultural produce, Nguyet said. "This agency would check the market situation and establish a proper price for agricultural produce at all times. This will help eliminate struggles between the sellers and the buyers during the difficult time," said Nguyet.

Help by the truckload

In order to deal with the shortage of food, the municipal's People's Committee has allowed trucks with a tonnage of over 1.5 tonnes to transport food to the inner city even during the daytime to supply vegetables to city markets in time.

Ha Noi Industry and Trade Department has proposed that big enterprises such as Metro, Big C, Intimex, Fivimart and Ha Noi Food Company keep their supermarkets open for more hours to prevent food shortages and price hikes.

The recent rains have damaged about 200,000ha of winter subsidiary crops, a half of total winter crops, in some northern provinces, according to deputy director of the Ministry of Agriculture and Rural Development's Cultivation Department Phan Huy Thong. VND3 trillion ($178.6 million) was estimated in damages.

The department has instructed localities to drain water by any means possible and immediately cultivate short-maturing vegetables to supply for people soon.

Northern provinces including Tuyen Quang, Yen Bai, Ha Giang and Lang Son were told to go ahead and plant the winter-spring crop of maize, sweet potatoes, groundnuts and peanuts and make use of highland area to plant short-maturing vegetables.

Thong said the ministry would provide farmers with VND1 million to buy seeds and fertiliser for one hectare. Localities have requested the ministry give more than VND198 billion ($11.8 million) of support to buy 800 tonnes of rice seeds, 30 tonnes of maize seeds and 40 tonnes of vegetable seeds.

Phuong Hoa - Dinh Hieu.