Sugarcane farmers bitter as yields, prices crash

Farmers in the southern province of Soc Trang harvest sugarcane. The fall in cane prices is attributed to large stocks of sugar produced from the previous crop. — VNA/VNS Photo Trung Hieu

HCM CITY  (VNS) — For sugarcane farmers in the central and southern regions it has been a double whammy as bad weather and diseases first hit their crop and then low prices reduced their incomes.

Nguyen Tan Nhan, who grew sugarcane on two hectares in Ninh Hoa town in the central province of Khanh Hoa, said this year his yield had almost halved to 55 tonnes and he only managed to get VND875,000 (US$41) per tonne compared to VND900,000 last year.

After costs there was no profit left, he said.

“This has been the worst sugarcane season for my family.”

The fall in cane prices is attributed to large stocks of sugar produced from the previous crop.

Bui Van Hoi, a neighbour who grew 10ha of sugarcane, said this year the crop had been hit by prolonged warm weather and a toy beetle larvae infestation.

“My yield is 42 tonnes per hectare this year, 20 tonnes down from last year.”

He plans to switch partially from sugarcane to keo lai (hybrid acacia) next time.

“In recent years income from sugarcane has been unstable.”

Nguyen Ngoc Hoang, chairman of a local farmers association, said this year both quality and quantity had declined, leaving farmers with little profit and even causing losses for some.

Farmers in Ninh Xuan, Ninh Tay and Ninh Sim communes in Ninh Hoa town all reported poor yields this year.

Local farmers had planted sugarcane on around 11,800ha in the 2014-15 crop and expected to complete the harvest by May end, the town Economic Bureau said.

In the south-eastern province of Tay Ninh, some 7,000ha of sugarcane has been affected by stem borers.

The situation is alarming and can develop into a province-wide disease outbreak, according to the Tay Ninh Department of Agriculture and Rural Development.

It is working with scientists and the Ministry of Agriculture and Rural Development’s Plant Protection Department to find ways to combat the infestation.

Stem borers, which have a life span of around 50 days, can cause the quality of sugarcane to decline by 20-30 per cent.

In the Tay Nguyen (Central Highlands), Cuu Long (Mekong) Delta and south-eastern regions, sugarcane does not provide as much income as some other industrial crops, but farmers continue to grow the crop sugarcane because they are contracted to sugar mills who have invested in seedlings and fertilisers.

But the significant decline in profits has made many farmers switch to other crops.

Tran Van Do of Vinh Cuu District in the south-eastern province of Dong Nai said: “Previously I grew 2ha of sugarcane. In recent years I grow other crops on 1ha.”

He made no profit from the 2013-14 sugarcane crop.

“If the sugarcane price does not improve when I harvest the 2014-15 crop, I will stop growing sugarcane,” he added.

Many farmers in the Mekong Delta provinces of Long An, Hau Giang and Tra Vinh have switched to other crops because of the low sugarcane prices.

In Hau Giang, the area under sugarcane has shrunk from 15,000ha three years ago to 12,000ha now after the price fell for three straight years, according to the province Department of Agriculture and Rural Development.

This year the department plans to reduce the area further to 10,000ha. — VNS

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