Coffee growers feel the grind of cold conditions

SON LA (VNS)— Coffee growers in north-western provinces are struggling to cope with lower prices and cold weather that has damaged hundreds of hectares of crops.

Quang Van Ta, a coffee farmer from Chieng Den Commune in northern Son La Province, has nearly three hectares of coffee plants. He said a kilo of coffee beans now only fetched VND6,000, while the wages for workers hired to pick them were around VND2,500 per kilo.

Costs of pesticides and fertilizer have also gone up.

Dried coffee beans are being sold to traders and businesses at VND25,000-30,000 per kilo, a decrease of VND10,000 compared to last year.

Quang Van Sam said his family and many households had to dry and process some of the coffee beans and put them into storage to wait for prices to rise. Otherwise, he said he would incur major losses.

Cold weather below 10 degree Celsius is not making it any easier for coffee farmers.

According to statistics from the Son La Department of Agriculture and Rural Planning, cold weather and frost had damaged at least 640 hectares of coffee plantations in Mai Son, Thuan Chau and Son La during December.

Tong Van On from Hua La Commune said his family used to make about VND100-150 million from growing coffee each year, but this year, his family suffered significant losses.

Hoang Van A, a farmer from the same commune with 20 years of experience, said many coffee trees had been damaged by hoarfrost.

Government support

Hoang Van Ton, head of the livestock and plant bureau under the Son La Department of Agriculture and Rural Development, said the province was working to assess the damage.

For now, coffee growers who have lost at least 30 per cent of plants will be compensated VND 1 million ($47) per hectare.

The province has also approved a development plan to reassess coffee plantations in the region from now up to 2020, and could include government subsidises for coffee growers when prices are low.

According to experts, a long-term solution was needed to promote sustainable farming and build a brand name to promote Son La coffee. — VNS