by Xuan Hiep
HCM CITY — Thousands of farmers in the central province of Ninh Thuan have benefited from a project that has raised their incomes by being a partner with businesses to enhance competitiveness in agricultural production.
In addition to partnership, the Agricultural Competition Project, with chief sponsorship of the World Bank, also transfers technology and helps farmers reach markets more easily.
The project, with total investment of US$75 million, began in 2009 in the provinces of Ninh Thuan, Thanh Hoa, Nghe An, Gia Lai, Dak Lak, Lam Dong, Binh Dinh and Binh Thuan.
Under the project, Ninh Thuan received $8.24 million to implement four key components: agricultural technology enhancement, production-alliance support, essential infrastructure and project management.
Of those components, the production-alliance support, in which farmers cooperate or partner with businesses, plays the most important role in producing high-quality products and expanding the market, according to local authorities.
As part of the programme, farmers are given a 40 per cent discount for materials for agricultural production and receive free training in agricultural technologies.
In return, busineses are committed to buying products from farmers at the market price or 10 per cent higher than the market price.
The businesses are also committed to promoting the products and seeking markets for the products.
From 2009 to 2011, Ninh Thuan Province established nine agricultural production alliances (farmer-business partnerships) that have been operating successfully, according to local authorities.
In the Ninh Hai District's Xuan Hai Village, a state-of-the-art slaughterhouse has been built, which conforms to sanitation standards. It supplies 10 tonnes of fresh lamb every day.
Huynh Thien Nguyen Thanh Thoai, chairman of the sheep breeding alliance, said the partnership was set up between businesses and farmers in Ho Hai Village's Luong Cach Commune in March 2010.
The alliance received VND2.3 billion ($109,500), of which VND370 million went to businesses and the rest was equally divided among 52 farmer households.
With this financial support, the alliance improved breeding facilities, grew more grass for sheep breeding, vaccinated more than 3,000 sheep, and set up a website to promote their products.
In the last two years, businesses have bought about 52 tonnes of lamb from farmers for VND58,000 ($2.7) per kilogramme, VND18,000 per kg higher than market price.
Last year, the alliance also supplied lamb to HCM City and other northern provinces, with earnings of VND5 billion ($238,000), an increase of 150 per cent over previous years. Each farmer household earned a profit of VND40 million ($1,900) per year.
In addition, 90 green-apple growers in the province partnered with businesses to set up the Van Hai green apple alliance in June 2010. The alliance received VND2.4 billion ($114,300) from the project management board.
Since joining the alliance, the productivity of green-apple growing has risen from 38 to 42 tonnes per ha per year. Revenue from green apples last year reached VND6.8 billion ($323,800).
Another 167 farmers, who live in Ninh Phuoc District's An Hai Village, have also benefited from two clean vegetable alliances located on a 250-ha area in the province.
Tran Van Hoan, a representative from the Tuan Tu – Dai Loi clean-vegetable alliance, one of two clean-vegetable alliances, said that after one year of joining the alliance, output value reached VND5.28 billion ($251,400), an increase of 139 per cent compared to the target.
Other alliances that have been set up that have been successful include alliances for goat-breeding, corn-growing, jackfruit-growing and sugarcane-growing.
Local authorities have recommended that the model be replicated across the country.
The most important aspect about the model is that many products such as rice varieties, vegetables, green apples and sheep have attained stable outputs, bringing income to both farmers and businesses.
This bodes well for further farmer-business partnerships that would produce onions, garlic, salt and grapes, among others.
Chau Thang Long, deputy director of Ninh Thuan Province's Department of Agriculture and Rural Development, said farmers have become more aware of the environment and food-safety and hygiene standards.
For example, they have limited the use of pesticides and other harmful chemicals in growing vegetables and breeding animals in order to produce high-quality products.
Ninh Thuan Province targets setting up at least 12 agricultural production alliances by next year. It will also offer training in agricultural production technologies for 5,000 farmers.
It also aims to create 12,000 jobs for women and ethnic minority groups in the province.
The only drawback is management within the partnerships, which is still weak. Many disputes still exist among farmers and businesses, which need to be resolved, according to the project management board. — VNS