Mar 9, 2009

Cassava glut downs prices, farmers lose out

Thanh Nien Daily - Ho Chi Minh City,Vietnam March 9, 2009. With many farmers in the Central Highlands province of Dak Nong rushing to cultivate cassava last year, a supply surplus has sent prices plummeting and left farmers with an unprofitable crop.(Picture: Sacks of cassava are weighed and loaded for transportation to the local market in Cu Jut District, Dak Nong Province.)

Dinh Van Dien of Dak Rong Commune in Cu Jut District said cassava was bought at VND3,000 (US$0.17) per kilogram last year but now it is priced half that.

He said he made no money from his two-hectare cassava field after paying nearly VND6 million ($343) in labor costs.

Many families in the commune, with cassava fields of 3-5 hectares, have literally been crying because of crop losses.

“It is so bitter,” Dien said. “Last year, farmers rushed to grow cassava after seeing the prices soar. We never imagined that cassava prices would plunge like this.”

Many disappointed farmers have yet to hire workers to cultivate their crops.

Pham Van Kieu, an agricultural products outlet in neighboring Nam Dong commune, said he refused to buy cassava from many farmers because supply was more than consumption this year.

Le Van Cong, head of Cu Jut District’s Agriculture and Rural Development Department, said cassava areas increased three times to 1,830 hectares last year although officials warned growers of producing a surplus.

Cong also said it was not just Cu Jut, but many other districts in Dak Nong Province that have seen a significant increase in cassava cultivation.

“Perhaps farmers do not need warnings this year. They will decrease it by themselves,” he said. “They have learnt the lesson.”

Reported by Tran Ngoc Quyen

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