Vietnam primarily has a rice-based agricultural economy. Rice is cultivated on 82% of the arable land and provides 80% of carbohydrate, and 40% of the protein intake of the average Vietnamese. The two rich deltas of the north and south - Red River and Mekong, respectively – are responsible for most of the rice. The Mekong River delta accounts for 52% and Red River delta another 18% of Vietnam’s rice.
Vietnam is one of the most important rice producers and exporters in the world. Surprisingly, before 1986, the country had to import rice, because domestic demand exceeded supply. The amount of rice Vietnam imported rice even exceeded 1 million tons during the latter 1960s and in 1976.
Thanks to the 1986 launching of the Doi moi reform, starting the country’s integration into the world economy and also putting in place policies encouraging development of agriculture, rice production in Vietnam increased rapidly. The country started exporting rice in 1987, transforming itself from a rice importer to rice exporter starting in 1989.
Vietnam Food Association (VFA) data shows that rice exports from Vietnam in 2012 reached a record high of 7.7 million tons, thereby maintaining its place as the world’s second largest rice exporter, following only India.