Sugarcane no longer sweet for Mekong Delta’s largest producer

Hau Giang Province, the largest sugarcane producer in the Cuu Long (Mekong) Delta, is growing less and less of the crop as prices fall sharply.

Sugarcane no longer sweet for Mekong Delta’s largest producer
Harvesting sugarcane in Hau Giang Province. – VNA/VNS Photo Duy Khuong

It is estimated to have around 6,000ha under the crop this year, down nearly 3,000ha from last year, according to its Plant Cultivation and Protection Sub-department.

Bac Van Son, head of the sub-department, said this is the second consecutive year the area under sugarcane has declined dramatically, after reducing by the same area last year too.

The low prices of sugarcane in recent years have seen many sugarcane farmers suffer losses and switch to other crops.

Tran Van Em, a farmer in Vi Thanh City’s Vi Tan Commune, has for instance turned his 5,000sq.m sugarcane farm into a pineapple orchard this year.

“My family suffered losses during the last two sugarcane crops,” he explained.

His family switched to pineapple after some traders promised to buy it, he added.

The province Department of Agriculture and Rural Development has told sugarcane farmers to switch to other crops only when conditions are good enough and there is a guaranteed outlet for them.

The province prioritises certain effective farming models like growing sorghum, seedless lime, Idor longan, pineapple, and freshwater fish and apple snail, according to the department.

But in many sugarcane farming areas, farmers cannot switch to other crops because of difficulties like unsuitable soil and lack of funds and outlets.

Tran Van Tuan, head of the Phung Hiep District Bureau of Agriculture and Rural Development, said farmers in the district have had a long tradition of growing sugarcane and earning high incomes.

But with prices declining in recent years, they face difficulties, he said.

 

Many want to switch to other crops like fruits but lack the money to invest, he explained.

The district lacks outlets for other crops either, he said.

So farmers have only managed to grow other crops on a small area so far though the district hopes to switch to other crops on an additional 500 – 1,000ha in future, he said.

Phung Hiep, which has the largest sugarcane farming area in the province, had 4,300ha under the crop in 2019 – 20.

To help farmers, the province will review sugarcane farming areas and make zoning plans, according to the department.

Areas with high yields and quality and flood-prevention dykes will continue to grow sugarcane.

Those with lower yields and quality and do lacking dykes will gradually turn to other crops.

The province has called on individuals and companies to invest in producing agricultural machines for sugarcane like harvesters to reduce costs. – VNS

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Trade fraud and large-scale smuggling in the last two years have led to closure of than one-third of sugar mills in Vietnam, and many sugarcane fields have been left uncultivated.

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