Bitter harvest for sugarcane farmers after typhoon destruction

Typhoons Ketsana and Mirinae destroyed 50 percent of the standing sugarcane crop in the central provinces of Quang Ngai, Binh Binh, Phu Yen and Kon Tum, causing a severe shortage of cane for making sugar.

Farmer Nguyen Phuong of Binh Dinh Province with his sugarcane crop that was destroyed by Typhoons Ketsana and Mirinae (Photo: SGGP)

Nguyen Phuong, a Binh Dinh farmer, said: “Our family had grown sugarcane on 8,000 square meters for nine months. Typhoon Ketsana struck [in October] and destroyed much of the crop. Then Typhoon Mirinae hit the province and destroyed the rest.”
Phan Lam Tuong, deputy general director of the Binh Dinh Sugar Company, said his company’s farms in Binh Dinh and Giai Lai provinces were affected by the storms, with 40 percent of the crop being destroyed, reducing sugar production by 83,700 tons.
Companies in Phu Yen Province had planned to crush 160,000 tons of cane to make 16,000 tons of sugar this year.
Le Tan Dam of the province-based Tuy Hoa Sugar Company said, however: “Thirty percent or 40,000 tons of cane were destroyed by floods. So the sugar output will fall to 12,000 tons. Sugar companies will face a severe shortage of cane for two to three months.”
The Quang Ngai Sugar Company reported that 4,209 hectares of sugarcane run by its Quang Phu and Pho Phong sugar mills in the province were destroyed.
Sugar mills in the Central Highlands have always lacked sugarcane to make sugar, the damage of hundreds of thousands of cane by the storms will make the shortage more serious, and even mills’ production plans will go “bankrupt”.

To overcome the shortage, sugar mills in Quang Ngai, Binh Dinh, and Phu Yen hope to increase cane productivity and expand the area under sugarcane.
Mr. Dam said: “My company will invest VND15 million per hectare to grow sugarcane in 2010-11 and use a ton of fertilizer on every hectare. The company will buy cane at VND490,000 a ton at farms and VND550,000-650,000 if farmers bring it to the mill.”
Mr. Tuong said: “New high-yield cane varieties like R579, R570, K88-65, and K88-92 will be planted on an experiment basis in Binh Dinh by BISUCO. They yield 120-150 tons a hectare.”
“If it is successful, we will expand the area under cultivation to encourage farmers to grow sugarcane again,” he added.
The Quang Ngai Sugar Company had spent VND36 billion on the 2008-09 crop to develop sugarcane farms and billons of dong to build transportation and irrigation systems but the area under sugarcane still declined.
Though sugar companies have plans to expand the area under cane, they and farmers need to raise funds for a new crop.
Vo Thanh Dang, chairman of the Vietnam Sugarcane and Sugar Association, said: “The association has asked the Government and local administrations to adopt policies to assist farmers, reschedule bank debts, and waive taxes on sugar and sugarcane enterprises.”

By H. Minh, H. Trong – Translated by Chuong Hy

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