Viet Nam News
GIA LAI — Farmers in the Tây Nguyên (Central Highlands) Province of Gia Lai are waiting for buyers for Japanese sweet potatoes harvested from hundreds of hectares, danviet.vn reported.
The area specialises in major industrial crops such as coffee, pepper and rubber. But with the recent fall in prices of these crops and unstable consumption levels, farmers in Phú Thiện District have switched to other crops, especially Japanese sweet potatoes, due to the potential to earn big profits.
However, many sweet potato growers are at risk of suffering losses due to sharp decreases in price and the lack of traders willing to buy the crop.
Trần Văn Tuyến, a sweet potato farmer in Chư A Thai Commune’s Kim Môn Village, said he had harvested three ha of Japanese sweet potatoes but he was unable to find a buyer. Many of the potatoes have started sprouting and rotting.
Rather than selling his sweet potatoes in bulk, Tuyến must bring them to a local market and attempt to sell them for a price between VNĐ1,500 and 5,000 per kilo.
He has chosen to destroy two thirds of his unharvested crops to clear area to grow rice in the spring.
He said that the cost for each hectare of sweet potatoes was up to VNĐ50-60 million (US$2,100-2,600).
In Kim Môn Village, there are more than 100 families cultivating the crop, but only a few have been able to sell their products.
Trịnh Thị Thủy, another farmer, said her inability to sell the crop drove her to destroy two ha of sweet potatoes to make fertiliser for growing rice.
However, Thủy said her family would once again grow sweet potatoes in next crop because there was no better option.
“I will grow this potato in next crop if local farmers do the same,” Thủy said. “I hope the price will increase to help farmers have more profit.”
Sweet potato prices also dropped sharply in 2015, causing losses for many families. Prices rose quickly in 2016 and 2017, providing good income to farmers.
Each hectare of sweet potatoes produces between 20 and 25 tonnes.
If the price is stable at VNĐ10,000 per kg (as it was in 2017), growers can expect to earn about VNĐ100 million per ha, double the amount they could make growing rice.
These high numbers lured local farmers into cultivating large areas of the sweet potatoes.
Phùng Trung Toàn, chairman of the People’s Committee of Chư A Thai Commune, said local people started growing Japanese sweet potatoes in 2011, but consumption depended entirely on traders. In bumper crop years, farmers find it difficult to sell their products.
The commune has about 300ha of sweet potatoes in total, but only four or five families sold their products at the local market, Toàn said.
According to Bùi Trọng Thành, head of Phú Thiện District’s Agriculture Department, the district has over 600ha of sweet potatoes, mainly in Chư A Thai and Ia Sol districts.
The department will seek solutions to help farmers, Thành said. — VNS