Viet Nam News
Bồ Xuân Hiệp
ĐẮK LẮK — A strategic agreement to develop the Buôn Ma Thuột coffee brand is expected to revive the country’s coffee industry, which needs to replace thousands of old, unproductive trees on farms in the Central Highlands province of Đắk Lắk.
The agreement between Bình Điền Fertilizer Joint-Stock Company and Vinacafé Biên Hòa Joint-Stock Company, a member of the Masan Group Corp, was signed on Monday in the province in the run-up to the 6th Coffee Festival that will kick off in Buôn Ma Thuột City this weekend.
It is expected to help local authorities create a high-quality, productive coffee-growing area in the province’s Êa Tu Commune.
Under the programme, cutting-edge technologies will be used in pilot production models, while small farming households will be consolidated into a centralised farming area to improve coffee productivity in six villages and six hamlets in Êa Tu Commune.
Huỳnh Quốc Thích, deputy director of the province’s Department of Agriculture and Rural Development, said that coffee trees had been cultivated in Đắk Lắk Province for the last 100 years.
Most of the trees are more than 20 years old and produce low yields. The average life span for coffee trees is between 20 and 30 years.
Between 140,000ha and 160,000ha of trees need to be replaced in the next five to 10 years, a big challenge for the industry, Thích said.
The industry is also facing other problems, including small-scale production, poor quality control, and outdated processing technologies.
Ten years ago, coffee brought a prosperous life to millions of farmers in the province, but in recent years the productivity and quality of coffee beans have declined.
Y Drăn Byă, 51, of Ko Tam Hamlet in Êa Tu Commune, who owns 0.9ha of coffee trees, told Việt Nam News that most of his coffee trees were planted in 1972.
The yields have dropped to only 1.3-1.5 tonnes a year, compared to five to seven tonnes a year a decade ago, he said.
Coffee trees more than 20 years old account for 23 per cent of the area, and trees 15-20 years old for nearly 35 per cent, according to the Department of Agriculture and Rural Development.
More than 92 per cent of the coffee trees have not adapted well to disease or to climate changes.
In addition, intensive farming and improper use of fertilisers as well as pesticides have seriously affected soil quality in the province. Many farmers often water trees excessively, washing away nutrients needed for the plants.
The two companies that signed the agreement said they planned to work with the province’s Department of Agriculture and Rural Development and Agriculture Extension Centre.
The two firms have been cooperating with the Central Highlands’ Agro-Forestry Scientific and Technical Institute to create linkages among farmers, scientists, businesses and the state in an aim to improve the Buôn Ma Thuột coffee brand.
Phạm Quang Vũ, chairman of the board of directors of Vinacafé BH JSC, said, “This programme will improve the value of Buôn Ma Thuột coffee beans, known as the “pearl of Ban Mê”.
The deputy general director of Bình Điền Fertiliser JSC, Võ Văn Phu, said the companies were committed to placing “farmer benefits” as their top priority.
“We’re willing to work with farmers on the challenging path ahead,” he added.
Over the past 10 years, the country has exported an annual 1.2-1.5 million tonnes of coffee.
Việt Nam ranks second in the world for coffee exports, following Brazil.
The Vinacafé Biên Hòa Joint-Stock Company manufactures and distributes a range of beverage products, including instant coffee, instant cereal and bottled beverages.
The signing ceremony was part of a press conference to announce the 6th Coffee Festival in Buôn Ma Thuột City in the province this weekend.
The biennial festival, with the theme “Quintessence Convergence – Identity Promotion – Connecting for Development”, hopes to attract record attendance and showcase the area’s economic potential.
This year, the event will host more activities, including a gong festival and conference on investment promotion for the Central Highlands region. — VNS