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Sugarcane prices a bitter pill in Delta

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Many farmers in the Cuu Long (Mekong) Delta have suffered losses in the 2017-18 sugarcane crop because of low prices.

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Farmers in Long Phu Township, Long Phu District of the southern province Soc Trang cut down their sugarcane as prices dipped. — Photo Trung Hieu

Diep Van Tam, who owns a hectare of land in Soc Trang Province’s Cu Lao Dung District, said after the harvest he had tried to sell his sugarcane to traders, but no one bought it.

Afraid the sugarcane would rot, he then hired workers to harvest the crop, transported it to the Soc Trang Sugar Corporation and sold it at a loss of VND15 million (US$660).

The price of cane has fallen from VND700-800 a kilogramme at the beginning of the harvest season last October to VND500 – 550 now, but there are still few buyers.

In Cu Lao Dung District, sugarcane on many fields has become over-mature but their owners cannot find buyers.

So far farmers in the district have managed to sell only 3,000ha out of 6,300ha of the crop, according to the local Agriculture and Rural Development Bureau.

With their cost being VND50-60 million ($2,200 – 2,600) per hectare, many farmers face a loss of a sixth to 40 per cent.

In Tra Vinh Province, authorities have warned farmers not to harvest their cane en masse because the Tra Vinh Sugar Cane and One Member Limited Company can process only around 2,500 tonnes a day.

Le Hong Phuc, vice chairman of the Tra Cu District People’s Committee in Tra Vinh, said the district had planted more than 4,100ha and harvested less than half.

Almost all the rest is ready for harvest but the company cannot buy all of it, causing harvested cane to be left in fields and on vehicles for days, he said.

Around 100 boats with sugarcane are waiting on the Mu U River to sell to the company.

Tran Trung Hien, director of the Tra Vinh Department of Agriculture and Rural Development, said it would take the company around three months to buy all the cane.

Sugarcane is a major crop in Tra Cu, which is usually affected by saltwater intrusion in the dry season.

Normally, the yield here is around 100 tonnes per hectare giving farmers a profit of VND30-40 million.

However, in recent years farmers have been hit by low prices and lack of demand. 

Local processors blamed the low demand on the low prices of sugar.

Nguyen Hoang Ngoan, deputy general director of the Can Tho Sugar Joint Stock Company, told the Sai Gon Giai Phong (Liberated Sai Gon) newspaper that sugar retail prices have fallen sharply to VND11,600 – 12,000 a kilogramme [from VND13,500], but demand remains stubbornly low.

The smuggling in of large quantities of sugar into the country is one of the reasons for the low prices and sales of domestically produced sugar, according to producers.

Sugar inventories at mills have been increasing relentlessly and so they do not dare buy large quantities of sugarcane, Ngoan said.

Switching  

With the low sugarcane prices and demand, many farmers in the Delta have begun to switch to other crops.

Dang Quoc Huy, who has a 5,000sq.m sugarcane field in Cu Lao Dung District, said he harvested the 2017-18 sugarcane crop but suffered a big loss.

The future does not look bright either, he said.

“Therefore, I am hiring workers to dig ponds in the field to breed white-legged shrimp.”

Ho Thanh Kiet, head of the Cu Lao Dung Agriculture and Rural Development Bureau, said farmers would switch to other crops on an estimated 900ha, growing vegetables, fruits or others or breeding aquatic species after the current sugarcane crop.

In the past Cu Lao Dung used to have more than 8,000ha under sugarcane and was the largest producer of the crop in Soc Trang Province, he said.

But the area had recently reduced to 5,000ha because of low profits from the crop, he added.

Source: VietNamNet

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