|A strange insect that local farmers called "tan mat", is damaging sweet potato crops in Binh Tan District in the Mekong Delta province of Vinh Long. — Photo dantri.com.vn
VINH LONG (VNS)— Insects are damaging sweet potato crops in Binh Tan District in the Mekong Delta province of Vinh Long.
Le Van Trung, head of Thanh Loi Safe Vegetable Co-operatives in the district's Thanh Loi Commune, said that a strange insect that local farmers called "tan mat" was first detected in the district in 2012.
It is difficult to find because it is very tiny and able to move fast, he said.
Farmers usually found it after it pierced part of a sweet potato.
By this time, it was too late to spray chemicals to kill the insect, Trung said.
He said that wholesalers paid only VND 400-850 (US1-2 cents ) per kilolgram of damaged sweet potato.
Earlier this year, sweet potatoes were priced up to VND680,000 ($31) per 60 kilos or 50 cents per kilo.
Huynh Van Giau, a local farmer, said that the breakeven price for each kilo of sweet potato was about VND 6,000 (27 cents).
Giau said that he grew about 5,000 sq.m of sweet potato and would probably suffer a loss of VND50 million ($2,300 ).
Another farmer Vo Van Manh said that his family would switch to growing another crop.
Tonnes of sweet potato have been left abandoned in local fields as farmers don't want to harvest. Vice director of the province's Agriculture and Rural Development, Nguyen Van Liem, told Nong thon ngay nay (Countryside Today) newspaper that the department had worked with a research institute to seek ways of killing the insects.
The department's officers have started instructing farmers how to combat the pest.
The department is also applying Vietnamese Good Agriculture Practices (VietGap) in sweet potato cultivation in Thanh Dong Commune.
Forty-three households have joined the scheme.
Director of Thanh Dong Co-operative, Ngo Van Tua, said farmers grew potatoes all year round, but didn't treat the soil well, leading to crop diseases.
To deal with this problem, the local authorities have encouraged farmers to grow different crops, improve soil quality and eliminate disease after each harvest.
Tua said that sweet potatoes grown with VietGap standards sold at a higher price.
Binh Tan District has about 9,000 ha, or about 90 per cent of sweet potato farm in the province.
The Binh Tan- Vinh Long sweet potato has been registered with the National Office of Industrial Property and Trademarks Protection in Viet Nam. — VNS