Venezuela Uses Recovered Land to Plant Rice with Vietnamese Assistance

As
part of Venezuela's food sovereignty and security plan, and as a result of an
agreement with Vietnam, Venezuela has increased its rice cultivation by farming
land that was previously privately owned and unused.
By Tamara Pearson – Venezuelanalysis.com
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Mérida,
May 15th 2009 (Venezuelanalysis.com) - As part of Venezuela's food sovereignty
and security plan, and as a result of an agreement with Vietnam, Venezuela has
increased its rice cultivation by farming land that was previously privately
owned and unused.

On
Wednesday, the newly created "socialist company" Marisela started planting rice
on 26 hectares (64.2 acres) of land that the government recovered from a large private
estate in Apure state.

The
Venezuelan government has worked with a team of Vietnamese agronomists to
develop planting techniques and create rice seed hybrids appropriate to
Venezuelan agricultural conditions, and also to develop an agro-ecological
project involving fish cultivation in the secondary irrigation canals of the
rice paddies.

The
rice seeds are plague-resistant and will be sold at up to 50% cheaper than
other seeds. This is part of Venezuela's National Seed Plan, which aims to
strengthen national food production, sovereignty and security, and to develop
local seed banks and new farming technology.

Agriculture
and Land Minister Elias Jaua denounced the existence of a campaign by private
businesses against Venezuelan seeds. He said this campaign exists "because we
are preventing their speculation."

Jaua
also said the rice will be free of agro-chemicals, and the government expects
to harvest five tons per hectare in September. Within four years, the
government hopes to be cultivating rice on 50,000 hectares (123,500 acres) of
recovered land, said Jaua.

"For
the first time rice is being planted on this land for the Venezuelan people. It
has been a struggle for the farmers to recover this land and to put it to the
service of national food production... we're not just liberating land, but also
men and women," Jaua said.

Yvan
Gil, the vice president for agricultural products in the Agriculture and Land Ministry,
said on the state television station VTV that increasing rice production would
help create new consumption habits and could substitute wheat, which can't be
produced in Venezuela. Rice, however, is a "natural market for Venezuela and
the rice that isn't consumed can be exported," he said.

Gil
said that for years the previous land owners had clamed the land was
unproductive and only suitable for use as pasture or for agro-tourism. However
the team from Vietnam studied the land and said it had the right
characteristics for rice cultivation.

President
Hugo Chavez, on seeing footage of tractors ploughing the new rice fields said
that the tractors looked like tanks, and that the scene looked like a war.
"This is the war for life," he said.

In
other agricultural initiatives, Chavez announced the development of a publicly
owned shrimp farm in Falcon state on Wednesday. On Thursday, 1,700 tons of soy
seeds arrived in Anzoategui state from Brazil, as part of the National Seed
Plan.