Farmers harvest coffee in Đắk Lắk Province’s Cư M’gar District. — VNA/VNS Photo Anh Dũng
HCM CITY — The Tây Nguyên (Central Highlands) region has entered the coffee harvest season but is grappling with a shortage of labourers amid travel restrictions due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
The region, the country’s largest coffee producer, includes the provinces of Lâm Đồng, Đắk Nông, Đắk Lắk, Gia Lai and Kon Tum.
In Đắk Nông, the province needs about 13 million labour days to harvest coffee between October and December, according to the province’s Department of Agriculture and Rural Development.
However, local labourers can only meet half of the province’s demand, while labourers outside the province cannot enter the province because of travel restrictions.
Nguyễn Văn Ái, who owns a 1.2ha coffee orchard in Đắk Nông’s Đắk R’lấp District, said in previous years he had hired labourers from the Cửu Long (Mekong) Delta to harvest coffee, but this year they cannot travel to the province.
In previous years, his family hired six harvesting labourers and paid them VNĐ300,000 (US$13) a day.
“My family has offered a higher payment this year, but it has been difficult to hire people,” he said.
In Lâm Đồng, Gia Lai, Kon Tum and Đắk Lắk, the supply of local labourers meets only 40-60 per cent of the provinces’ demand for the coffee harvest, according to local departments of agriculture and rural development.
Authorities in the Tây Nguyên provinces have told local organisations to establish coffee harvesting teams and groups to offer harvesting services.
The Đắk Nông Department of Agriculture and Rural Development has encouraged coffee orchard owners to hire locals who have returned to the province from other areas where they had been working, such as HCM City.
It has instructed localities to exchange labour days among coffee orchards if necessary.
Localities should also review their labour force and prioritise giving COVID-19 vaccinations to labourers of coffee harvesting groups and those who treat coffee beans after harvest.
Tôn Thị Ngọc Hạnh, deputy chairwoman of the Đắk Nông People’s Committee, said the number of local labourers returning to the province during the pandemic presents both an opportunity and a challenge.
In Đắk Lắk and Lâm Đồng provinces, coffee harvesting groups and job-exchange activities have been organised to introduce labourers to coffee orchard owners and coffee-growing companies.
Đắk Lắk Province has mobilised human forces, facilities and vehicles to help coffee orchard owners harvest, transport, treat and preserve harvested coffee. It has also created favourable conditions for local labourers to travel to coffee-growing areas to harvest coffee.
Đắk Lắk, the Central Highlands region's largest coffee producer, has more than 200,000ha of coffee trees with an annual output of nearly 500,000 tonnes. — VNS