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Imprudent farming, selling lead to instability for cassava growers

Update: March, 24/2012 - 09:43

HCM CITY — Cassava farmers in the Central Highlands Province of Kon Tum are leading a roller-coaster existence because production is disorganised and inefficient, the Lao Dong (the Labour) newspaper reported yesterday.

Farmers in the province have rushed to produce cassava without a proper plan and seeking out markets that will purchase their produce regularly at reasonable prices, the report said.

Currently, Kon Tum Province has about 40,000ha dedicated to growing cassava – the second largest cultivation area for the crop in the Central Highlands region and the third largest area nationwide.

A sharp fall in market prices this year have hit the farmers hard, the report said.

Last year, the agreement Dak To Cassava Starch Processing Plant purchased fresh cassava for VND2,760 a kilo, but this year, the price has fallen to VND1,760, while dried cassava prices have fallen from VND4,700 to VND2,700.

The price of cassava is largely dependent on the amount of starch it contains. The company has agreed to a fixed price for cassava with starch content of 30 per cent. If this decreases by one per cent, the purchase price of cassava will decrease by VND30.

Local farmers have failed to do what is necessary to grow cassava with high starch content and are suffering from low productivity, low starch content and land degradation, the report says.

The report claims that without investments in intensive farming, the amount of starch is limited to 26-27 per cent, keeping cassava prices low at approximately VND1,000 per kilo.

The lack of market information and accurate demand forecasting has also been responsible for low prices, as has been the failure to find more markets to buy the farmer's produce.

Nguyen Van Hiep, deputy director of the Dak To plant, said yet another reason for lower prices is that demand from China, the largest buyer of cassava starch, has fallen.

Furthermore, purchases by domestic animal feed processing plants have also been low.

Tran Van Chuong, deputy director of Kon Tum Province's Department of Agriculture and Rural Development, repeated the mantra of intensive farming and the use of new plant varieties with high productivity.

He said farmers and businesses should establish close links with each other and sign contracts for consuming produce. The province, for its part, will implement an agricultural insurance scheme for farmers to minimise damage caused by natural disasters and unexpected price hikes, Chuong said.

He said close farmer-enterprise links will not only help the farmers avoid price squeezes, but businesses will also be confident that farmers would not sell their produce to small traders instead of factories that process the root. — VNS

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