A new private-public partnership between Australian and Vietnamese organizations will bring scientific and economic benefits to both countries. These benefits include rice breeding, production, and marketing across the entire rice supply chain.
Named the Australia-Vietnam Mekong Delta Sustainable Rice Value Chain Project, the partnership combines the expertise of the Australian Centre for International Agricultural Research (ACIAR), SunRice Group, University of Queensland (UQ), An Giang University, Can Tho University, and Cuu Long Rice Research Institute (CLRRI).
The project has a total investment of over AUD 4.3 million. Over 1 million AUD of the investment is funded by ACIAR.
It is hoped that the results that will stem from this research could be applied to plant-breeding activities at Vietnamese institutions, as well as to help expand the rice-growing industry in North Queensland.
Additionally, the project also aims to encourage cooperatives and rice farmers to adopt more sustainable rice-growing practices and to optimize yield and quality in Vietnam’s Mekong Delta Region.
The project will also establish a Centre of Excellence in Milling and Post-Harvest Processes at the Lap Vo Mill. Staff and students of An Giang University are welcome to research and share knowledge in the field of rice milling.
Senator Tim Ayres, Australia’s Assistant Minister for Trade and Assistant Minister for Manufacturing, was present at the launch ceremony and stated, “Vietnam is one of the three largest rice exporters in the world, with about 53% of rice produced in the Mekong Delta and Australia needs to learn from Vietnam about the rice production process, that is useful to Australian farmers.”
ACIAR CEO Andrew Campbell also spoke during the launch, saying, “Farmers are part of a wider business system. Improving incomes and livelihoods is the best way to encourage smallholder farmers to switch to more sustainable farming systems. Sustainability isn’t just about the environment. It’s about the entire model of producing food. If it can’t be viably maintained, then it’s not sustainable.”
On top of the expected improvement to the rice supply chain, Vietnamese and Australian researchers will be conducting rice breeding work in tandem. The CLRRI in Vietnam will work to develop short-grain Japonica rice to achieve high grain yield and tolerate stress conditions in the Mekong Delta market to meet premium quality requirements.
Dr. Jaquie Mitcheel, head of the UQ researchers, stated, “Our project is looking at introducing some genetic material from International Rice Research Institute and/or other genetic material that might be available and then back-crossing that or using marker-assisted selection to improve the disease resistance of our elite Australian bred material. There have been publications that have identified the genes or genetic regions that are driving and delivering that resistance. We are now trying to look at the Australian genetic material that is already available and make the selected crosses based on that. Also, if we don’t have that genetic material available already to the breeding program, we will try and bring that in so there are new sources of disease resistance.”
The project implementation will last until 2025.