Low coffee prices upset farmers in spite of bumper crop

SGGP
At this time, coffee farmers in Binh Phuoc, Dong Nai and Dak Nong provinces are entering harvest season. However, despite of a bumper crop, farmers are unhappy as the price of coffee is extremely low, causing them to be unable to cover investment and caring costs and the risk of a shortage of capital for next crop.

Coffee enters harvest season in Bu Dang District. (Photo: SGGP)

Coffee enters harvest season in Bu Dang District. (Photo: SGGP)

Binh Phuoc Province has 16,000 hectares of coffee trees, concentrating in Bu Dang, Bu Gia Map and Dong Phu districts. Unlike Central Highlands provinces, coffee trees in Binh Phuoc were grown sparsely in many places. At this time, most coffee fields are entering harvest season with higher productivity than previous year. However, the price of fresh coffee was merely VND6,000 per kilogram and the price of coffee bean was around VND30,000-VND32,000 per kilogram, the lowest level in the past ten years.

Mr. Le Van Tan, a farmer with 13 years of experience in growing coffee in Tho Son Commune in Bu Dang District, said that his family has more than 1.7 hectares of coffee trees. Last year, his coffee fields yielded more than 5 tons of coffee bean which was sold above VND37,000 per kilogram. He is confident that productivity will be more than 7 tons of coffee bean this year but as the price of coffee is only VND32,000 per kilogram, his family is anxious.

In more than a dozen years of growing coffee, the price has never been as low as this year. The lowest price also reached VND35,000 per kilogram. If the price does not increase, coffee farmers will not have profits and will be unable to make up for care costs. Therefore, his family is not hurry to sell but stockpile coffee and wait for the price to recover, he said.

Sub-area 23 in Dac Nhau Commune in Bu Dang District, neighboring with Dak Nong Province, is a rural area with several difficulties in traffic so traders usually lower coffee price to around VND31,000 per kilogram of coffee bean. Amid low coffee prices, Mr. Nong Van Phuong, a farmer who has grown coffee for nearly ten years in sub-area 23, said that his family has 1.5 hectares of coffee trees intercropping with cashew trees. In previous years, despite of lean harvest, the price of coffee was not too low for farmers to be able to make up for expenses. This year, coffee yield is higher but the price is extremely low.

‘If the coffee price continues to stay as low as current, my wife and I will have to work as hired labors to cover our lives,” he said sadly.

For several farming households in Binh Phuoc Province, coffee is the main livelihood for their families so the fact that coffee price continuously drops has discouraged them. If the harvest is not enough to cover expenses, reinvestment for the next crop will face several difficulties.

Dong Phu District has more than 877 hectares of coffee trees in Tan Hung, Tan Phuoc, Thuan Phu, Dong Tien and Dong Tam communes with average productivity of 2-3 tons per hectare. At this time, many households rush to collect both green and ripe coffee berries without caring of quality.

Mrs. Pham Thi Lan, a farmer in Tan Phuoc Commune, was rushing to harvest reddening coffee berries in which there were lots of green coffee berries. She said that in previous years she usually waited for coffee berries to ripe more before hiring workers to harvest coffee at once. However, as the price of coffee is too low this year, if she hires workers to help her with harvesting she will suffer huge loss so she and her husband gradually harvest coffee by themselves.

‘Because coffee berries have not totally ripened, there are lots of green coffee berries, leading to low productivity and poor quality, I have no other choice,’ she said.

Mr. Hoang Van Pao, a farmer who has also grown coffee for more than 10 years in Duc Hanh Commune in Bu Gia Map District, said that last crop, he collected more than 10 tons of coffee bean from his 2-hectare coffee field so he had enough money to reinvest in order to increase coffee yield in this crop. This year, coffee yield is expected to be a few tons of coffee higher than previous year but with such low price, reinvestment will be difficult. If the situation continues to happen, he will have to reduce investment cost.

According to Mr. Dieu Ren, the cost for hiring workers is VND1,000 per kilogram of fresh coffee. With a price of VND6,000 per kilogram of fresh coffee, after deducting labor cost, he is able to fetch VND5,000 per kilogram. Therefore, this crop, his family does not dare to hire workers but to exchange labors to help each other to harvest coffee. 

He said that his family has not sold coffee and been waiting for coffee price to rebound.

According to the Department of Agriculture and Rural Development of Binh Phuoc Province, despite the falling prices, coffee still has stable consumption and is exported to many countries. In order to make a living and get rich by growing coffee, farmers need to change their cultivation methods, focusing on organic production to reduce investment costs and stabilize consumption. At the same time, farmers need to convert old, poor-yielding coffee fields to grow other crops with higher economic efficiency.

By Hoang Bac – Translated by Thuy Doan

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