|Chrysanthemum and rose trees are discarded to make space for other plants. Farmers in Tay Tuu Commune, Tu Liem District, Ha Noi have to destroy many flowers because of reductions in prices and buyers. — Photo vietnamnet.vn
by Kieu Van
HA NOI (VNS) — Nguyen Thi Xuan from Tay Tuu Commune in Tu Liem District in the north is one of many chrysanthemum growers caught holding large stocks of flowers before Tet. She and her neighbours recently had to destroy much of their crop and start growing something else.
Last year, wholesalers, many of them from China, bought up whole crops in the area before they were harvested, promising to return this year and do the same.
However, such large new areas were planted out by farmers in the district and in neighbouring areas, that it created a glut - and a slump in prices.
To try and sell the overflow, Xuan was forced to cart huge bunches of chrysanthemum flowers 30km by motorbike from her home in Tay Tuu Commune to Ngo Si Lien market early every morning.
"My family has three sao (one sao equals 360sq.m) of flowers, but we haven't sold much in 15 days. Most of our flowers are now being sold at the wholesale market," the 40-year-old woman said.
Tay Tuu is the biggest flower area in northern Viet Nam. Every year, the commune provides 250 million flowers for both domestic and foreign consumption.
Flower farmers hoped this year's warm weather would bring a good harvest. However, one month ago, farmers had to destroy a mass of flowers in the fields because of the reduction in prices and buyers.
According to farmer Nguyen Van Dong, last year wholesale traders flocked to Tay Tuu Commune to purchase a huge amount of flowers. "We hadn't cut flowers in time to sell. Traders purchased them in the fields."
This year's situation is different. Every day, farmers carry flowers around by motorbikes and bicycles trying to sell some at retail prices.
Nguyen Van Tinh, 30, said warm weather had led to early blooming. "My family had to destroy about eight chrysanthemum flower beds to prepare for other varieties."
The current retail price for a 10-flower bouquet is about VND7,000-10,000 (30-45 US cents) four times lower than for the same period last year.
A 50-year-old grower said she spent VND10 million for fertiliser, chrysanthemum seedlings, water and electricity to cultivate three flower beds for three months.
Vu Dinh Phuong, chairman of Tay Tuu Commune's Farmers Association, said the number of flower growers had increased by 500 households to to 2,500. Several neighbouring regions that tried to cash in on the Tay Tuu boom have also been caught in the same situation.
Phuong said the losses have cost farmers nearly VND5 billion ($234,350). On average, each household suffered VND15 million - 30 million in losses.
An expert from the Ministry of Agriculture and Rural Development's Institute of Agricultural Economics said although agricultural policy makers have made pre-crop warnings about uncontrolled growing, farmers still ran after immediate profits.
"The only effective measure to keep close control of the problems is co-ordination between local authorities, farmers' associations, media outlets and agricultural policy makers," he said.
Phuong, chairman of Tay Tuu Farmers' Association, said the fluctuation of flower prices before Tet occurred permanently so it was out of their control.
"Last year, many Tay Tuu flower farmers signed contracts worth tens of million dong with Chinese partners," he added.
"We have seen with great concern the traps of uncontrolled expansion, however farmers still rush head long into the trap."
During the last 10 years, the commune has created jobs for hundreds of seasonal labourers with monthly income of VND1 million ($47) or more. This is considered high compared to average farm incomes. — VNS