More than a thousand hectares of winter-spring rice in central Thua Thien-Hue Province are ready for harvest, yet have failed to produce grains, placing many households in a rice seedling shortage and lean harvest.
Halting the harvester at a seedless rice field, farmer Dinh Nhu Bui in Phu Ho Commune in Phu Vang District is highly anxious.
"Everyone took it for granted that they would harvest a bumper winter-spring rice crop this year," said Bui, "But it has unexpectedly turned out that the rice has failed to seed."
Bui's family cultivated over 2.5ha of rice seedlings but none can be harvested.
"My family has lost about VND49 million (US$1,900) buying fertiliser and rice seedlings, and on labour while working the field," Bui further added "All I've got is straw from a crop that I've tended since last September."
Tens of thousand households in the districts of Phu Vang, Phu Loc and Quang Dien also face the same plight.
Deputy director of the provincial Agriculture and Rural Development Department Hoang Huu Hoe said these districts had incurred a complete loss of over 1,600ha of rice, worth some VND25 billion ($1.1 million).
Farmers had to harvest young rice grains or burn them in order to prepare for the following summer-autumn rice crop, Hoe said.
Bui and many other farmers in Phu Vang said the short-term grain variety that the district had transplanted for this year's winter-spring rice crop had previously provided high yields and there had rarely been a bad harvest in the past 15 years.
Hoe said it was abnormal climatic conditions this year that had caused the bad harvest as the rice had suffered from prolonged, late cold spells.
"Cold weather has never lasted until April before, unlike this year," said Hoe.
Chairman of Phu Ho Agriculture Co-operative Ho Ban affirmed it was not low quality seedlings that had caused the bad harvest.
"Such an abnormally bad harvest hasn't been recorded in Phu Ho Commune over the past 30 years," Ban said.
The co-operative has lost more than 126ha of rice, leading to losses of over VND2 billion ($95,000) in investment cost.
Deputy head of Cultivation Department under the Ministry of Agriculture and Rural Development Pham Dong Quang said this year's late and cold weather only occurred once a century.
Farmers in Thua Thien-Hue are suffering not only the bad harvest but also having to pour their money into harvesting and burning rice straw to provide space for the following crop.
Farmer Nguyen Trung in Phu Vang District's Phu Luong Commune said every sao of rice field (one sao is equivalent to 360sq.m) would cost him about VND50,000 ($2.3) clear.
Mushroom-making villages like Phu Luong and Phu Ho could also face a lack of young straw as an essential material to produce mushrooms in the time to come.
Trung said many farmer households were preparing to go to big cities to earn a living and escape from hunger.
The bad harvest had also brought about a danger of lacking rice seedlings for the summer-autumn rice crop.
An official of Thua Thien-Hue provincial seedling and breed company said the company would only provide 3,000 of a total of 5,000 tonnes for the coming crop.
Hoe said the Thua Thien-Hue Agriculture and Rural Development Department had asked the Cultivation Department to provide 300 tonnes of seedlings for the summer-autumn rice crop.
Quang pledged to provide seedlings for affected areas in Thua Thien-Hue Province in accordance with a Prime Ministerial decision on supporting seedlings and breeds to localities affected by natural calamities. — VNS