HCM CITY (VNS) — Many rubber farmers in the south-eastern region, the country's main rubber growing area, have cut down their trees and switched to other crops like pepper and coffee following losses caused by the relentless fall in latex prices.
Nguyen Thi Le, who grew rubber trees on 4ha in 2005 in Binh Duong Province's Bac Tan Uyen District, has cut down nearly 2ha.
In 2014 the price of latex declined dramatically from VND30,000-40,000 (US$1.4 -1.9) a kilogramme to VND10,000, she said.
"The income from selling latex is not enough to hire workers to tap rubber trees. So I decided to cut about half of my rubber trees.
"To earn profits from the remaining rubber trees, my family has to tap [them] and not hire workers."
In neighbouring Binh Phuoc and Tay Ninh provinces too, many farmers have switched from rubber to crops like coffee, pepper, cassava, and sugarcane.
In Tay Ninh, for instance, farmers cut down 1,749ha of rubber trees in the first 10 months of last year, according to the province's Department of Agriculture and Rural Development.
Of the figure, 218ha had trees less than five years old while the rest were above 10 years old.
A significant increase in global prices of latex in 2009-13 persuaded many farmers to plant the trees as the area under rubber trees in the country increased from 454,100ha in 2004 to 955,600ha in 2013, exceeding the Government's plans by 12 per cent, according to the Plant Cultivation Department.
Authorities in Binh Duong, Binh Phuoc, and Tay Ninh provinces encourage farmers not to cut down rubber trees but instead wait for prices to recover.
Nguyen Tan Binh, director of the Binh Duong Department of Agriculture and Rural Development, said farmers had been cutting down rubber trees on hundreds of hectares despite authorities' warnings.
Minister of Agriculture and Rural Development Cao Duc Phat has instructed competent agencies to ensure sustainable development of rubber farming by focusing on improving yields and reducing costs.
An agriculture extension programme for rubber farmers and a programme to improve management of rubber seedlings would be established soon, he said.
Provincial agriculture departments should give priority for training farmers in cultivation and tapping techniques, he added.
Individual farmers and companies grow half each of the country's rubber. — VNS