HCM CITY (VNS)— The area under sugarcane in the Cuu Long (Mekong) Delta is expected to fall significantly this year, with many provinces planning to plant the crop only in high-yield areas or simply reduce its cultivation.
Sugarcane farming has already shrunk in the area in recent times due to low prices and relentlessly rising costs.
Nguyen Van Dong, director of the Department of Agriculture and Rural Development of Hau Giang Province, the biggest sugarcane grower in the delta, said farmers made profits of just VND30–50 per kilogramme in the 2012-13 crop.
Due to the low profits, many farmers in the delta, the country's main sugarcane growing area, have stopped planting the crop.
Dong said Hau Giang had 14,000-15,000ha under the crop, but its plan to ensure sustainable development of sugarcane farming envisages a reduction to around 12,000ha and a focus on high-yielding areas.
In areas of low productivity, other trees would replace sugarcane, he added.
Nguyen Thanh Long, chairman of the Viet Nam Sugar and Sugar Cane Association, said the 2012-13 crop has been harvested in the delta, and the task would be completed next month in the central and Central Highlands regions.
Sugar production from the crop would be nearly 1.5 million tonnes, leaving a surplus of 400,000 tonnes after domestic consumption and exports, he said.
The volumes would not be too large if sugar was not smuggled into the country, he said.
But if large quantities were indeed smuggled in, the contraband items, with their cheap prices, would dominate the market, putting local producers in a spot, he said.
Sugarcane yields in Viet Nam remain low compared to other countries, pushing up production costs.
Sugar mills struggle with high inventories but cannot export due to their high prices.
The high prices also encourage smuggling.
Industry insiders warned that sugar companies would be unable to find a way out of the problem without a master plan by the Government. — VNS