Low-Carbon Rice Practice Helps Vietnam Meet Emission Target while Maintaining Competitiveness

10:06:13 AM | 10/3/2022

Moving to low-carbon rice production offers the highest potential for Vietnam to meet its goal of cutting methane emissions by 30% by 2030 while boosting the competitiveness of a strategic export item.

This statement is made in the report, titled “Spearheading Vietnam’s Green Agricultural Transformation: Moving to Low-Carbon Rice.” Vietnam can transform the rice sector by cutting greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions, improving resource efficiency and yields, boosting resilience, and diversifying production. Such transformation will require significant investment and major policy reforms to align incentives and coordinate behaviors of stakeholders at all levels. 

Ms. Carolyn Turk, World Bank Country Director for Vietnam, said the agricultural sector, despite all its successes, is an important contributor to GHG emissions in Vietnam. It has reached a point where a transition to lower-carbon modes of farming is imperative - the longer it takes to switch, the higher the costs will be.

Experience suggests that the government has a catalytic role to play in driving the green transition through strategic allocation of public investment and strengthening the enabling environment for private sector participation in a modern, green agriculture sector.

Rice, which is Vietnam’s most important crop and grown on more than half of its agricultural land area, accounts for 48% of the agriculture sector’s GHG emissions and over 75% of methane emissions. Based on conservative estimates, improving water management and optimizing the application of inputs such as seeds, fertilizers, and pesticides can help farmers maintain or increase yields by 5 to 10% and reduce input costs by 20 to 30%, thereby boosting net profits by around 25%. More importantly, these improved techniques would also help cut GHG emissions by up to 30%. Such approaches were successfully piloted in over 184,000 ha of rice farming under the  Vietnam Sustainable Agriculture Transformation Project (VnSAT)  financed by the World Bank. 

Mr. Benoît Bosquet, World Bank Regional Director for Sustainable Development in East Asia - Pacific, said: “These methods have been proven effective. If we can scale them up in the whole agricultural sector, they will help Vietnam progress toward its net-zero greenhouse gas emissions target by 2050.”

For the Mekong Delta, Vietnam's largest rice bowl, which produces about 25 million tons of rice, accounting for more than half of the country's total output, measures have been proven and tested successfully in Vietnam and Mekong Delta farmers can apply to increase rice production and income, reduce greenhouse gas emissions and maintain price competitiveness.

Ms. Carolyn Turk said, the impacts of climate change, sea level rise, greater weather changes along with salinity have been considered the new normal of the Mekong Delta. Vietnam has begun to have transformational thinking, vision and approach to regional development and planning - from smallholder farming and provincial perspective to inter-provincial and delta-wide; from a short-term industry perspective to a long-term, multi-industry and integrated approach. The foundation of this transformation is the Mekong Delta Master Plan and Master Program for Regional Agricultural Transformation.

However, moving from planning to execution is not a simple matter. She said, there are many great challenges that Vietnam has to face. These challenges lie in policy and institutional gaps, especially when it comes to regional coordination of actions; lack of integrated and innovative solutions to complex demographic, socioeconomic, spatial and climate change challenges, such as aging populations, low per capita incomes from some categories of agricultural crops such as rice, which requires large-scale agricultural transformation and sustainable livelihoods.

Specially, there is a need for more integrated basin-based water resources management with full hydrological analysis, natural resource management, coastal and riverbank protection, and land subsidence. There is also a need to coordinate in sustainable finance, engage the private sector and maximize leverage.

According to the World Bank, Vietnam needs to solve five short- to medium-term policy areas to accelerate the transition to low-carbon agriculture, including ensuring policy coherence and plan-budget alignment, repurposing policy tools and public expenditures, promoting public investments, strengthening institutions, and enabling the private sector and other stakeholders to participate.

Quynh Chi (Vietnam Business Forum)