Coffee pickers at work. — Photo dantri.com.vn
CENTRAL HIGHLANDS — A few years ago hundreds of people used to descend on coffee plantations in the Central Highlands region to work as coffee pickers during the harvest season when coffee prices were high.
However, now prices have fallen, there is less interest in the work.
According to many plantation owners in Đắk Nông Province, coffee picking used to provide a stable income for thousands of labourers.
Over the past three-four years, more and more coffee plantations had been converted to other crops, leaving the work less attractive, Dân Trí online newspaper reported.
Now many coffee farmers struggle to find workers for the harvest.
Nguyễn Văn Dũng, the owner of a coffee plantation in in Xã Đắk Drô Commune, Krông Nô District, said his family began harvesting coffee in mid-November this year.
This year, labour costs were higher than last year, but it was still difficult to find workers due to the low coffee yield, according to Dũng.
Every day, he and his wife have to work on the plantation from early in the morning to the late afternoon because they have only been able to hire two pickers.
In previous years during the harvest, coffee pickers got paid a daily wage, but now they want paying for how much coffee they pick, with prices from VNĐ1,000-1,200 per kg of ripe fruit.
The workers often chose plantations where the fruit was ripe to save time, the newspaper reported.
Hiền, a coffee grower living in the same commune as Dũng, said coffee pickers could earn VNĐ400,000 (US$17.2) per day.
"We now have to find workers. For this crop, I've hired 10 people. I have to prepare accommodation and meals for them," Hiền said.
"They will leave if something makes them unhappy during the harvest."
"Every year, the coffee farmers have search for pickers when the harvest comes. If the coffee isn’t picked immediately, the trees can crack and fall to the ground. Quality will suffer and the coffee will be ruined."
Workers gather on Highway 28, the section through Đắk G’long District, Đắk Nông Province, to wait for coffee plantation owners. — Photo dantri.com.vn
Y Dem, a rice farmer living in Đắk Lắk Province, said he had worked as a coffee picker for seven years.
During the coffee harvest, his family of seven travel to Đắk Nông Province to work on the coffee plantationsgardens.
It takes four days to a week to pick coffee from a plantation and his family can make tens of millions of đồng.
“Last week, we just finished picking 1ha of coffee, earning VNĐ12 million. Our daily meals are prepared by the plantation owners," Y Dem said.
"We can get if a bigger bonus if we stop the branches from breaking."
Plantation owners also compete with each other by paying higher wages for workers and taking better care for them during harvest time.
In recent years, manual workers in some delta provinces have moved to industrial zones because it is not as hard as picking coffee.
Meanwhile, a number of young labourers from the Central Highlands had moved to big cities to find jobs, leading to a shortage of coffee pickers, the newspaper reported. — VNS