Fast-industrialising Vietnam plans to protect at least 3.9 million hectares of rice fields to ensure long-term national food security, state media reported on Friday.
The move comes amid the global food price surge that has seen grain prices skyrocket and aims to preserve a core growing area of the national staple food from mushrooming industrial parks, urban areas and golf courses.
Deputy prime minister Hoang Trung Hai has instructed the Agriculture Ministry to prepare a Rice Cultivation Land Management decree and submit it for approval in the third quarter.
Amid Vietnam’s economic boom, rice land -mainly in the Mekong delta around HCM City and the Red River delta around Hanoi -has shrunk from about 4.5 million to 4.1 million hectares between 2000 and 2006, says the ministry.
Aside from the building of new factories, rice paddy is also being gobbled up by 123 golf courses that are either in operation or being planned, and which require large amounts of water and pesticides, according to state media.
Development has seen thousands of rice farmers lose their ancestral lands, driving a steady series of demonstrations outside government offices by farmers who typically complain they received insufficient compensation.
In a protest last month, hundreds of angry farmers in central Nghe An province set up roadblocks to stop the building of an industrial park, claiming they were short-changed by developers.
Rice prices have shot up this year, helping to drive inflation to 25% year-on-year in May, triggering about 300 labour strikes in the first quarter and sparking bouts of panic-buying and rice hoarding.