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Pepper farmers race the clock to find more workers

Update: March, 04/2016 - 09:41
A farmer takes care of his pepper farm in southern Dong Nai Province. While pepper trees are promising a bumper crop this year, farmers in Dong Nai Province are worried about harvesting the trees in time due to a shortage of labourers. — VNA/VNS Photo Le Sen

DONG NAI (VNS) — While pepper trees are promising a bumper crop this year, farmers in the southern province of Dong Nai are worried about harvesting the trees in time due to a shortage of labourers, local authorities said.

Le Thi Hiep, head of Xuan Loc District's Agriculture and Rural Development, said pepper growers found it difficult to hire a large number of people to reap the pepper fruits.

As many as 1,800ha out of 3,000 ha of pepper trees were waiting for harvest, she said.

Dong Nai Province is one of the localities with the largest area of pepper growing in the country with nearly 10,000ha. Xuan Loc District alone grows about 3,000ha.

Tran Huu Thang, a pepper grower in Xuan Loc District's Xuan Tho Commune, said normally he needed 16 employees to harvest his family's 2.8ha of pepper trees. However, he could employ only half of them this harvest.

Thang said he had no solution but waiting for other households to finish harvesting their pepper trees and use those employees for pepper collection.

"Everybody can do the pepper harvesting work as it does not require any skillful technique," he said.

However, the number of labourers who harvest pepper fruits was on the decline, Thang said.

He attributed it to a growing number of industrial zones in the region which attracted a lot of young labourers.

Workers got stable income and benefits from insurance schemes working at companies in the industrial zones while pepper harvesting work is a seasonal job and after that labourers had to find other jobs to earn their livings, Thang said.

The increase of payment for workers also caused difficulties for pepper households.

"This year my family hired six people with payment of between VND180,000-190,000 (US$8-8.5) per person per day whereas it was VND160,000 ($7) last year," he said.

The pepper harvest lasts between one and two months so it was necessary to harvest all the fruits in time, Thang said. Otherwise, he said, it would affect the quality of pepper trees the following year.

"This year was the first year that the region experienced the shortage of labourers," Thang said.

Next year he planned to visit some communes in the Mekong River Delta to look for people to do the work before harvesting time, he said.

Hiep, the head of the district's Agriculture and Rural Development, said the department had called on local farmers to help each others.

"If the situation occurs next year, we will call upon localities which don't grow pepper to assist pepper growers in the region," she said.

A similar situation is seen in Thong Nhat District which is home to 200ha of pepper.

Vo Van Thanh, who lives in the district's Hung Loc Commune, said he had hired 11 people with payment of between VND200,000 (US$8.9) per person per day while last year the payment was VND180,000 ($8).

He hoped that scientists would soon invent a machine helping pepper growers harvest more easily like the one that was used for coffee trees.

Tran Thuong, another pepper grower from Hung Loc Commune, said he had 2.5 ha of pepper at harvest time.

Despite the increase in payment for pepper collectors, his family couldn't find enough labourers.

While more and more young people work for companies at nearby industrial zones in the region, the harvest time of sugarcane, cassava, cashew nuts and pepper occurred at the same time due to the weather, Thuong explained.

He said in the future he would use modern techniques to help increase the trees output and make the pepper ripen at the same time so it doesn't require a lot of labour. — VNS

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