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Sugarcane farmers look to sweeter crops

Update: February, 22/2014 - 09:35
A farmer harvests sugarcane in the southern province of Hau Giang's Phung Hiep District. Many farmers in the Mekong Delta have switched to other crops to earn more money. — VNA/VNS Photo Duy Khuong
CUU LONG DELTA (VNS)  — Many sugarcane farmers in the Cuu Long (Mekong) Delta have switched to cultivate shrimp and other crops over the past two years to earn more money.

In Soc Trang Province's Cu Lao Dung District, which has one of the largest sugarcane areas in the Delta, many farmers that have already harvested their 2013-14 crop have switched to shrimp, corn, sweet potato and other plants.

Ho Thanh Kiet, head of the Cu Lao Dung Agriculture and Rural Development Bureau, said traders were buying sugarcane at fields at a price of VND700 a kilogramme.

At this price, farmers could only break even or lose after nearly one year of growing a sugarcane crop, Kiet said.

The district's sugarcane area is estimated to fall by 500ha for the 2014-15 sugarcane crop, according to the bureau.

Nguyen Hoang Phuc in Cu Lao Dung's An Thanh 2 Commune, who has planted sugarcane for 37 years, has dug two ponds with a total area of 4,500 sq.m in his sugarcane field to breed shrimp.

"I suffered losses in the sugarcane crop for 2013-14," Phuc said.

Phuc said he had invested in shrimp even though the financial outlay for the ponds was high.

The price of shrimp has risen in recent years, so many sugarcane farmers have switched to raising shrimp.

Tran Van Be, deputy chairman of the Cu Lao Dung People's Committee, said Cu Lao Dung had decided that sugarcane was the district's key crop.

The district has the highest sugarcane yield in the delta and supplies sugarcane sugar mills in Soc Trang and the Delta's other provinces.

However, the price of sugarcane has continued to fall over the past two years because of large sugar inventories and an increase in smuggled sugar.

Last year, the district's farmers converted more than 100ha of sugarcane into shrimp ponds.

The district officials estimate that an additional 300ha of sugarcane will be turned into shrimp ponds this year.

In Tra Vinh, Ben Tre, Long An and Hau Giang provinces, many sugarcane farmers have also planted other crops after harvesting this year's sugarcane crop.

Nguyen The Tu, head of the Phung Hiep District Agriculture and Rural Development Bureau in Hau Giang, said farmers in Phung Hiep had converted 700ha of sugarcane to other crops in the 2014-15 sugarcane crop.

In Tra Vinh, the area under sugarcane cultivation has declined to 5,800ha in the 2013-14 sugarcane crop, down about 300ha against the last crop, according to the provincial Department of Agriculture and Rural Development.

Sugarcane cultivation in the delta has declined in recent years, and sugar mills are expected to face a shortage of raw materials in the future, according to experts. — VNS


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