Nguyễn Ngọc Tuấn, president of Farmers' Association in Đức Trọng District. Photo tuoitre.vn
LÂM ĐỒNG — You won’t find Nguyễn Ngọc Tuấn in the fields growing potatoes, but the President of the of Farmers’ Association of Đức Trọng District in the Central Highlands province of Lâm Đồng is known among friends as ‘potato’.
He is the bridge connecting local potato-growing farmers with domestic and foreign companies, creating a production chain for potatoes, a speciality of Đà Lạt City and neighboring areas.
About ten years ago, farmers of Đức Trọng District, the largest potato growing area in Lâm Đồng, had to throw away tonnes of potatoes due to low prices traders paid.
The chips were well and truly down.
“Farmers had to clear the garden to grow other plants because the selling prices of potatoes were far lower than the harvesting costs,” Tuấn said.
The district has about 22,600ha of vegetables and fruits of various types with output at more than 650,000 tonnes per year.
However, only 10 per cent of the products were bought by traders following contracts. Others were bought through bargaining without any documents at unstable prices depending on seasons.
Tuấn thought it was time to connect potato farmers together.
“If thousands of farmers are linked together and prepare carefully for production plans, they will gain positions in the market and no longer feel inferior in the production chain,” he told Tuổi Trẻ (Youth) newspaper.
“Farmers’ sources are very huge and their production plans will adjust products’ prices.”
In the early 2015, he connected 50 farming households in Đức Trọng District to sign contracts with Orion Food Ltd Company from South Korea to grow 20ha of Atlantic potatoes. One year later, the growing area was expanded to 50ha with 125 households taking part.
“In 2015 and 2016, a large proportion of supplies for local and foreign factories were Atlantic potatoes. However, the potatoes easily got musty in rainy season,” he said.
“In 2017, I proposed importing Doobak potatoes from South Korea to grow them in Lâm Đồng.”
The area of Doobak potatoes now has been expanded to 200ha owned by 500 farming households with output of more than 28 tonnes per ha.
Orion Company collects all harvested potatoes, bringing an income of VNĐ130 million (US$5,600) per ha every three months for farmers.
After the potato season in the winter-spring crop, farmers can also make use of the land to grow other types of vegetables with profit of more than VNĐ250 million ($10,900) per ha per year.
“The most difficult thing is to gain the trust of the farmers and ensure their rights and benefits are mentioned in the contracts,” he said.
All 500 farming households in the production chain receive financial assistance, seeds, fertilisers and are trained with agricultural techniques.
Harvested products are collected by companies with ensured stable and competitive prices in the market.
Tuấn said the number of farmers joining the production chain will increase because the output of potatoes now meets only 40 per cent of factories in Việt Nam while these companies are planning to expand their production.
The companies want Vietnamese farmers to have stronger connections, he said.
In the future, Tuấn plans to offer trainings to farmers, aiming at massive potato growing model with high productivity. — VNS