Vietnam’s rice industry is enormous, to say the least. There are three main pockets of rice production: The Southern (Mekong) Delta region, which produces about half of the country’s rice; the Northern Delta; and the highlands of the north. As of 2015, Vietnam's $4 billion in rice exports accounted for over a fifth of the global supply.
However, with the domestic demand for rice declining, as a younger generation develops a taste for meat and wheat, and countries such as Thailand producing higher quality rice, the farmers who supply it don’t reap the rewards. Since the food shortages in the 1980s, the government’s focus has been on quantity instead of quality, continually pushing farmers to raise their output. As they work tirelessly to increase their production, more fertilizers and pesticides are sprayed, leading to a significantly less fertile soil.
According to Oxfam, in the Mekong Delta region, the average family earns $100 USD a month farming rice or about a fifth of what coffee growers in the north receive. Vietnam’s farmers have the lowest average income in the country, and in South-East Asia, they lie only above Cambodia.
A worker in Can Tho, Mekong Delta.