|The country has 662,000ha of coffee, with plants on 86,000ha being more than 20 years old and on another 140,000ha, 15-20 years old, according to the Plant Cultivation Department.—File Photo
HCM CITY (VNS)— The replanting of old coffee trees, especially in the Tay Nguyen (Central Highlands) region, is making slow progress because of difficulties like diseases and a shortage of quality coffee strains and funds, experts have said.
The country has 662,000ha of coffee, with plants on 86,000ha being more than 20 years old and on another 140,000ha, 15-20 years old, according to the Plant Cultivation Department.
The Tay Nguyen region, which accounts for 95 per cent of the country's total coffee area, replanted less than 13,000ha last year, according to statistics from agriculture departments in the local provinces.
Around 200,000ha need to be replanted by 2020. Dak Lak accounts for the largest area of 85,000ha, followed by Lam Dong (59,600ha).
The task has slowed up in recent years, with competent agencies blaming it on a shortage of funding and quality coffee strains, replanting techniques, and the adverse effect on the income of farmers during the replanting.
Besides, many of the replanted trees become diseased within two or three years after being plagued by parasitic worms, with their leaves turning yellow and falling off.
Speaking at a meeting in Lam Dong Province last week, Nguyen Van Hoa, deputy head of the Plant Cultivation Department, said the Government attaches great importance to the replanting.
"Provinces should pay more attention to studying areas with old coffee trees and the number of households with old coffee trees, and draw up replanting plans," he said.
They should set up offices to provide information to farmers about replanting and grafting coffee trees and replanting techniques and models, he added.
In recent years, the Ministry of Agriculture and Rural Development has introduced several models to replant old trees.
One of them is intercropping with other crops. When the latter bear fruit, farmers can cut down their old coffee plants and replant them.
Another model involves replacing 7 -10 per cent of old coffee trees in their fields every year.
The latter model is being considered by the Viet Nam National Coffee Corporation (Vinacafe), which grows coffee in several provinces, including Dak Lak, Dak Nong, Gia Lai, and Kon Tum.
Le Van Bau, head of the Tay Nguyen Agriculture and Forestry Science Institute, said to replace ageing coffee trees efficiently, several things needed to be done simultaneously like producing disease-free seedlings and using more organic fertilisers to keep out parasitic worms from the soil to prevent diseases.
About 54 per cent of surveyed households said they had difficulty in buying quality coffee seedlings, according to the Tay Nguyen Agriculture and Forestry Science Institute.
Participants at the meeting said farmers should be enabled to borrow on easy terms at interest rates of 5-6 per cent a year.
Farmers face many difficulties in replacing old coffee trees since they do not have an income until the new trees bear fruit, which takes around three years.
Deputy Minister of Agriculture and Rural Development Le Quoc Doanh said efficiently replant ageing coffee trees required the Tay Nguyen Agriculture and Forestry Science Institute, Vinacafe, and coffee growing provinces to work together to provide farmers with quality coffee strains and advanced farming techniques.
Coffee-growing provinces had to co-operate with banks to enable farmers to get loans to replace old trees, he added. — VNS