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Lime craze could leave sour taste for farmers

Update: March, 03/2018 - 09:00
Chopping down the sugarcane following seasons of disappointing low prices, farmers in the barren land of Long An Province turned their eyes to seedless limes in hope of better harvests. But the lime craze might be getting out of control.— Photo danviet.vn

HÀ NỘI — Chopping down the sugarcane following seasons of disappointing low prices, farmers in the barren land of Long An Province turned their eyes to seedless limes in hope of better harvests. But the lime craze might be getting out of control.

Lưu Khánh Cường, a lifelong farmer in Bến Lức District, last year transformed nearly two hectares of sugarcane field into seedless lime garden. He is in the middle of expanding by another hectare.

“Thinking back and forth growing limes is the only sensible thing to do. If I don’t grow limes, what can I plant for survival?” Cường told the Nông Thôn Ngày Nay (Countryside Today) newspaper.

Limes can be harvested twice a month, and total yield can reach 20 tonnes a year, the farmer said. Worried about the output of his products, Cường worked with an agriculture company which provided technical support and agreed to buy his limes at stable prices.

“The company mainly bought the first-class citrus (a lime weighing at least 5g) at the price higher by VNĐ3,000 (1 US cent) a kg compared to the market price. The price of the second-class limes would be the same as the market’s,” he said.

According to Ben Luc District Agriculture and Rural Development Division, there are currently some 5,000 hectare of lime trees, most of which are seedless. The authorities noted a rapid increase of lime garden area as the fruit was selling better than sugarcane or pineapple.

The rush to grow limes is spreading across province and even reached the furthest district of Thạnh Hóa which borders Cambodia.    

A local farmer, Nguyễn Văn Xích, who has 10 hectares of lime said that most of the land in Thạnh Hóa was alkaline soil, making it extremely difficult to grow anything.

With lime trees adaptable to unfavourable soil and the fruit selling at a good price, Xích decided turn most of his mixed garden to limes only.

Excess supply concern

The Bến Lức District agriculture division expressed concern that the locality’s initial plan for lime trees – about 6,000 hectares by 2020, was very likely to fail at this rate of expansion. It might lead to an excess supply of the fruit and hurt farmers in the long run.

Lương Hòa Commune People’s Committee Chairman Ngô Tấn Tời said that the sugarcane fields in the commune were diminishing quickly in tandem with a fast rise of lime gardens.

He was glad that residents were living better off with the limes, Thời said, but added that authorities did not encourage farmers to abandon sugarcane for lime en masse.

“We have warned farmers of being careful and considerate not just to follow what others do. It’s very risky,” he said.

Such fears might be coming to fruition. Cường said that the fruit price had never fallen to such a prolonged low as the eight to nine months in 2017.

“I hope that it was not the sign of an excess supply. If that’s the case, many farmers might go bankrupt as they have borrowed so much to grow the limes,” he said. — VNS

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