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Falling rubber prices take their toll on local industry

Update: June, 28/2014 - 11:06
Nguyen Thi Hong Nhung, a worker in Quang Binh Province, harvests latex. She says the rubber price collapse has hurt plantations and her income has sunk to about US$26 per month. — VNS Photo Phuoc Buu

QUANG BINH (VNS)— Price falls and low yields hit farmers and rubber workers in central Quang Binh Province while local authorities are struggling to find new plants in the locality.

According to Nguyen Duc Phong, chairman of farmer association in the province's Nong Truong Viet Trung commune, there has been a critical collapse in the price of natural rubber.

"One kilogramme of fresh natural rubber cost at VND8,000, while the cost was VND20,000 per kilogramme the same period last year," he said.

In addition to the price falling, rubber trees in the commune, which is considered a hub for rubber plantations in the central province, strong storms that struck Quang Binh Province last year have also ravaged earnings.

"We have a total of 2,000ha of rubber trees and the storms ruined 80 per cent of the total. The remaining trees are producing a very low yield," said Phong.

According to statistics produced last year, each worker could harvest 50kg of fresh natural rubber per day, compared with this year's maximum of 10kg per day, he said.

Many rubber plantation owners have said they want to get rid of the trees to use the land to grow other industrial trees.

Tran Xuan Hau, owner of a 120ha rubber plantation, said he had no choice but to replace the trees as it would take another six years to harvest. He also said he could not afford the cost of replanting the trees.

Hau is now among a host of farmers looking to grow more profitable trees.

Phong said the commune's authorities had organised several trips for farmers to learn about different models in neighboring Quang Tri Province.

"We found the cultivation of dragon fruits and black pepper might be suitable for the land. But we need to investigate the supply of water for pepper," he said.

Meanwhile, farmers themselves are having to cut down the trees to grow cassava and watermelon across 653ha. According to the farmers' association, watermelon has turned out bumper crops and earnings for farmers.

At the commune, there are 3,000ha of rubber trees managed by the local Viet Trung rubber company. The company refused to comment on the price fall, but workers said the collapse had created tough times.

Nguyen Thi Hong Nhung, a worker in the Quyet Tien team of the company, said she could harvest only 2kg of fresh natural rubber a day, much lower than an average of 60kg a day she did last year.

"Harvesting 2kg a day equals to wage of VND600,000 (US$26) a month. Many of my colleagues have quit to find a seasonal job as some of them were making even less than me," she said.

The company has a total of 17 teams of harvesters, with around 80 workers each. The majority of workers have become redundant as a result.

In the meantime, experts have recommended a halt to planting rubber trees in the province due to heavy annual storms. — VNS


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