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Asparagus a bonanza crop for poor farmers

Update: February, 02/2013 - 10:25

 

Farmers sell asparagus in Son Thanh village, in central Nghe An Province. Growing asparagus has become a pathway out of poverty for poor farmers in the area. — VNS File Photo
NGHE AN (VNS)— Growing asparagus has become a path out of poverty for poor farmers in Son Thanh village in the central province of Nghe An.

Asparagus has grown in popularity with the Vietnamese people due to its taste and high nutrition, with some claiming that eating the vegetable is beneficial to the heart and to sufferers of gout, diabetes and other ailments.

Nguyen Khac The, president of the Son Tay Co-operative in Tam Hop Commune in the mountainous district of Quy Hop, said households in the village were now able to earn about VND200,000 (nearly US$10) per day harvesting asparagus on about 500sq.m of land.

"Working seven days in the field, a household could earn as much in one crop as if they grew rice," The said, noting that asparagus can be harvested seven months a year.

The perennial plant was not easy to grow, requiring special care from soil preparation to watering and fertilising, The admitted The plants' development occurred mainly during the night, so they cannot be watered after 5pm and must be given only organic fertiliser. The crop must be harvested before 8am or the quality of the produce would be affected.

But the soil conditions and the climate in the area were suited to asparagus cultivation, and the plant has strong roots which help the stout stems develop quickly, he said. The overall life cycle of the asparagus plant is seven to eight years, but harvesting can begin in the sixth month after seeding.

The initial investment for a crop on 500sq.m of land was an estimated VND16 million ($760), a sizable sum for a household in Son Thanh, The said. Yet, after a year of trial, the participating farmers have been very happy with the result.

Not only have farmers had no difficulties finding a market for their crop, The said that his co-operative had already signed a contract with the Ha Hiep Co to buy all the asparagus its members can produce.

Ha Hiep director Nguyen Cong Hoang said he had given financial support to Son Thanh farmers from the beginning and readily signed contracts to buy their produce.

"This is a lot room for asparagus growing to expand in Nghe An Province," said Hoang, who added that his company was currently able to provide the market only about one tonne of asparagus per day against a demand of 30 tonnes.

"We want to secure an outlet for these farmers," said Hoang, adding that his company had plans to help farmers expand growing areas to 20-30ha in the years to come.

Ho Duc Thong, a member of the co-operative, said his family was very happy with the asparagus as the crops had been more profitable for him and his family.

"We can harvest about 4-5 kg of asparagus per day and sell it for about VND50,000 per kilo," Thong said. "So from the 500sq.m of asparagus, we can earn VND350-400 million ($17,000-19,000) a year – 4.5 times what we earned growing tomatoes."

Nguyen Thanh Tam, head of the agricultural extension department in Quy Hop District, promised to provide technical support to farmers in their effort to expand asparagus-growing acreage, voicing confidence that the crop would help lift farmers in Nghe An out of poverty. — VNS

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