CUU LONG DELTA (VNS)— Last year, Tran Chi Tam's small paddy dryer in Can Tho City operated at full capacity during the rice-harvest season, but this year business has dropped dramatically.
"The small dryers are not operating as much because they do not meet paddy traders' needs to dry a large quantity at a high quality," he said.
Tam, who has provided drying services in Co Do District for 10 years, said his machines dried about 300 tonnes of paddy during a summer-autumn crop in previous years but only 70 tonnes for this year.
Even though the price of drying paddy has fallen by VND20,000 to VND120,000-140,000 a tonne, Tam still faced difficulty finding buyers.
Thousands of other owners of small paddy dryers in the Delta are also losing customers, who are increasingly choosing larger dryers that have a higher quality.
Co Do District has 200 dryers, but most of them have a small capacity and do not meet paddy traders' needs, according to the District's Agriculture and Rural Development Bureau.
Lam Minh Tri, the bureau head, said the district's dryers could dry only 40 per cent of the summer-autumn rice crop harvested during the rainy season.
"However, small dryers often do not produce high-quality dried paddy as their temperatures are under 40 degrees Celsius, and their products do not meet husking standards for export," he said.
Large dryers that have better technology have been operating at full capacity.
Nguyen Van Nhon, owner of eight large dryers in neighbouring An Giang Province's Phu Tan District, said the issue was one of quality, not price.
Even though many large dryers offer a price of VND180,000 a tonne, VND40,000-50,000 higher than the price of other dryers, traders are still willing to use them.
The paddy from these dryers has a lower rate of broken rice when it is husked, so traders earn a higher profit compared to paddy processed by small dryers.
The Mekong Delta has about 9,600 dryers that can dry 40-50 per cent of the Delta's summer-autumn crop, but most of them are small dryers, according to figures from Delta provinces.
The summer-autumn crop is harvested in the rainy season when the demand for dryers is higher. During the dry season, the rice crops are dried under the sun.
Dr. Pham Van Tan of the Southern Institute for Agricultural Engineering and Post Harvest Technology said that most traders bought fresh paddy at fields and dried it in modern dryers, so small dryers were losing their competitiveness.
Le Van Banh, head of the Cuu Long Rice Research Institute, said farmers should buy bigger drying machines with better technology.
"Modernisation in the paddy drying process is very important, especially when there is a labour shortage and traders are buying fresh paddy directly at the fields," he said. — VNS