Farmers harvest gains of mechanized agriculture

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HO CHI MINH CITY: The increased use of machines in agricultural production has significantly contributed to improved productivity in agriculture, minimized post-harvest losses and raised farmers’ income.

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As of today, the country has about 600,000 tractors of all kinds, a rise of four-fold over 2001, said Doan Xuan Hoa, deputy head of the Department of Agro-Forestry Products Processing and Salt Industry.

It also has 266,371 threshers, 20,000 harvesters and 72,288 animal feed producing machines in addition to thousands of other specialized machines, he said.

Currently, rice threshing and milling have high mechanization rate of 95 percent, while 80 percent of soil preparation for rice cultivation is mechanized, Hoa said.

Southern Long An and Kien Giang provinces are among the localities leading the country in the use of machinery for agricultural production and therefore, their farming efficiency has been higher than in other regions, he said.

According to Mai Thanh Phung, chief of the National Agriculture Extension Center’s representative office in Ho Chi Minh City, rice production in the delta, the country’s biggest rice basket, has encountered an increasing shortage of laborers, therefore using machines has become an urgent need.

The use of harvesting machines has helped reduce the costs by 50 percent, as well as reducing post-harvest losses, he said.

However, among farming processes, the use of machines in harvesting and drying remains low, accounting for 35 percent and 45 percent, respectively, Hoa said.

Many localities reported that there are lots of factors that limit mechanization of agricultural production in the country.

Most farming plots remain too small to use machines, they said, adding that the number of machines made in Vietnam has not yet met domestic demand, while imported machines are too expensive for most farmers.

Technical instruction as well as machinery maintenance for farmers remained weak, jeopardizing the effectiveness of machines, they said.

According to the Kien Giang Province Department of Agriculture and Rural Development, the government has issued several policies to support farmers to purchase agricultural machinery, including interest-free loans, but not many farmers have taken them because, among other reasons, they lack assets to pledge as collateral.

Under the government’s agricultural mechanization plan, the country will aim to raise the mechanization rate in soil preparation to 95 percent by 2015 increasing this to 100 percent by 2020, and in harvesting to 70 percent by 2015, to over 80 percent by 2020.

It also plans to increase the use of machinery in other farming processes, including rice sowing, transplanting, and watering.

To realize the targets, Hoa suggested that localities review their zoning plans, improve infrastructure and irrigation systems, and establish large-scale farms to facilitate use of machinery in agricultural production.

Agricultural machinery manufacturers should conduct more research and provide the market with better-suited combine-harvesters and dryers to ensure efficiency.

He also suggested that local agricultural machinery manufacturers co-operate with foreign counterparts to produce machines suited for the local market, helping reduce prices.

PNA

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