|Banana market in central Quang Tri Province. Many farmers in the province are struggling to make ends meet as banana prices fell to their lowest price of the season this week. — Photo nguoiquangtri.net
HA NOI (VNS) — Many farmers in the central province of Quang Tri are struggling to make ends meet as banana prices fell to their lowest price of the season this week.
Before April, one kilogramme of bananas sold for VND5,000-10,000 (20-40 US cents) – a steady, adequate price for Le Canh Tuan, a banana grower in Bich La Dong Hamlet.
Since April, prices have fallen to VND2,000-3,000 (9-10 cents) per kilogramme, as Chinese traders, a major part of the farmers' incomes, stopped buying bananas, according to the Lao Dong (Labour) newspaper. But prices plunged even lower in the first week of October, to their lowest point to date – VND1,800 (8 cents) per kilogramme.
"Never before has the price of bananas dropped to such an awfully low level," Tuan said. "Nearly half a month ago, bananas were sold so cheap that we had to delay harvesting. But until now, the price hasn't seemed to rise."
Le Hong Khanh owns eight hectares of banana trees in Nai Cuu hamlet, Tan Thanh commune. In recent days, Khanh hasn't been able to sell his crap to local buyers.
"People only buy beautiful bunches of bananas for worship – no one will buy the rest," Khanh said. "If this situation continues, we don't know how we'll earn our living."
Tan Long Market in Huong Hoa District's Tan Long Commune, located on National Road 9, used to draw a large amount of banana traders. But these days, very few traders and trucks carrying bananas gather there.
"In this village alone, about 150ha of bananas are being harvested," said Le Canh Hao, chief of Bich La Dong Hamlet. "On these days, many unsold bananas pile up in heaps. People in this area will be in danger if this situation lasts longer, as all farmers have focused mainly on growing bananas."
Vo Thanh, chairman of Huong Hoa People's Committee, said a factory will eventually start buying all the unsold bananas for processing, but it was still under construction.
"At present, banana sales depend entirely on the Chinese and Thai markets," Thanh said. "Only a few of bananas are sold domestically, so the prices are unpredictable."
Since Chinese traders no longer bought bananas in Quang Tri, local sellers began to export their produce to Thailand through Laos. Laos had imposed high unofficial taxes on bananas.
Le Thi Thu Dieu, a banana trader, said Laos customs officials asked her to pay VND2.7 million ($121.60) for one tonne of bananas.
"I bought one tonne of bananas from farmers at about VND2 million ($90). If I have to pay VND2.7 million in taxes, how can I make any profit?" Dieu said, adding that she had to stop trading bananas until Laos lowered the tax rate.
Tran Tuan Anh, commander-in-chief of the Lao Bao Border Post, said the post worked on Wednesday with Laos police and authorities on the tax issue. After the meeting, Laos customs officials have started collecting lower taxes from Vietnamese traders. This allowed some Vietnamese traders to reopen their stalls and buy bananas from farmers. But prices remain low, at VND1,700-1,800 (7-8 cents) per kilogramme. — VNS