Vietnam planned to shift part of the country's rice area to cultivate other crops, mostly corn and soya, Vietnamese Minister of Agriculture and Rural Development (MARD) Cao Duc Phat said Wednesday. In 2013, Vietnam had total rice planting area of 7.9 million hectares and 1,157 ha of corn, said the minister, adding that there are too much rice areas while the country has to import nearly 4 million tons of corn and soya yearly. So around 130,000 ha of rice will be shifted to cultivation of other crops, mostly corn and soya. Despite reductions of rice planting areas, the agriculture sector will expand establishing model rice fields with a scale area of between 200,000 and 250,000 ha using appropriate rice varieties for export, MARD minister told local Vietnam Economic Times. To implement the plan, connections between enterprises and farmers would be boosted in rice consumption in the northern Red River Delta and southern Mekong Delta areas. It is estimated that the country's total rice cultivation area in the three crops would reach 7.6 million hectares with rice output of around 43.4 million tons. According to MARD, in 2014, the country will expand corn planting areas to 1.23 million hectares, an increase of 73,000 hectares compared to last year. New corn varieties providing high productivity and some gene- changing corn varieties will be put into production in combination with intensive farming in an effort to gain an output of 5.66 million tons. To reach the goal, the Ministry of Agriculture and Rural Development instructed localities and farmers to flexibly shift crop plants in an effort to earn higher incomes and maintain rice production in the long term. Meanwhile, the state is responsible for providing corn varieties and technical support to help farmers gain higher profits from corn, MARD reported. Planting genetically modified corn varieties is also encouraged in a bid to take full advantage of genetically modified corn varieties with high yield. In recent years, Vietnam has ranked among the world's top three rice exporters, along with India and Thailand. In the 2011-2012 crop, Vietnam ranked second, after India, when exporting over 7.7 million tons of rice, earning over 3.45 billion U.S. dollars. The figures reduced to 7.4 million tons in 2012 and 6.9 million tons in 2013 due to tough competition from those two rivals. Asia is Vietnam's largest rice import market, accounting for more than 77.7 percent of the country's total rice exports. Of which, Indonesia, the Philippines and Malaysia are traditional markets. According to chairman of the Vietnam Food Association (VFA) Truong Thanh Phong, the world will face a rice-surplus in a couple of years. Major rice export countries, like India and Thailand, will have increasing rice output and rice inventory as well. Meanwhile, some rice importers, including Indonesia and the Philippines, will gradually become self-sufficient in food. All those will put Vietnam into harsh competition with other rice exporters in 2014. In this context, Vietnam's plan to shift part of rice areas to cultivate other crops is said to be appropriate in term of ensuring both the country's food security and its export goal, which is set at 7 million tons in 2014, according to VFA. VFA's latest figures showed that Vietnam exported 307,255 tons of rice at 415.14 U.S. dollars per ton in January 2014. The export volume was 24.11 percent lower, but the price was 38.28 U.S. dollars per kg higher than the same period last year. Major exports were for the Philippines while shipments to China and African countries fell sharply. The country is expected to ship between 300,000 and 350,000 tons in February. According to VFA, there are three main factors that will affect the world rice markets in 2014, including the election in Thailand, one of the world's largest rice exporters, the harvest of the winter-spring crop in Vietnam and increasing demand from China and African countries. To reach the target of 7 million tons of rice exports in 2014, VFA has expanded more markets, besides the traditional ones, including African countries. To date, Vietnam's rice has been exported to 30 out of the 55 African countries, including Ivory Coast, Ghana, Senegal, Angola and Cameroon.