Khmer farmers reap profits from switching to corn

Thousands of Khmer ethnic minorities in the Mekong River Delta province of Tra Vinh are expected to escape poverty after taking part in a farming project that nearly tripled their income.

The project promoted the shift from low-yield rice cultivation to corn-seed production with advanced cultivation and processing technologies in the districts of Cau Ngang, Tra Cu, Chau Thanh and Duyen Hai.

The farming model is expected to create many jobs for low-income residents by including them in the value chain of the company, from cultivation to harvest to processing.

Khmer farmers involved in the project business venture are trained by Southern Seed Corporation (SSC) in seed-corn cultivation techniques and F1 hybrid-corn production.

This business partnership has helped increase the income of Khmer farmers by roughly 60 per cent.

With support from the Viet Nam Business Challenge Fund, SSC has deployed a VND37.5-billion (US$1.7 million) project (including VND7.8 billion ($371,400) invested by VBCF) and produced satisfactory results.

During the winter-spring crop in 2013 and 2014, the company signed a contract to produce corn seeds with 1,200 households on an area of 604 hectares of land.

Khmer farmers contributed more than 80 per cent of the project's agreement on corn seeds.

The crops produced 3,239 tonnes of corn with total value of VND25.6 billion ($1.2 million).

After harvesting, the farmers' average income was VND42.3 million (US$2,000) per hectare of F1 corn.

After processing, the company collected 1,609 tonnes of F1 seed corn sold in domestic and Southeast Asian markets.

The model applied to other crops such as rice paddy and vegetables in Cau Ngang and Chau Thanh Districts also produced good results.

Last Friday, the company opened a seed-processing factory in Long Duc Commune in Tra Vinh City with the capacity of 2,000 tonnes of seeds every year or 200 tonnes of corn each batch in the province. The area is home to more than 30 per cent of Khmer people in Viet Nam.

According to the company, another factory with a capacity of 40 tonnes for each batch is operated by Cau Ngang District's Nhi Truong Co-operative.

With success from the last winter-spring crop, besides 604 ha for F1 corn-seed production, the inclusive business model has been expanded to 58.5 ha of green beans, 34.7 ha of paddy and 1.7 ha of vegetables in Cau Ngang, Tra Cu, Chau Thanh and Duyen Hai districts, home to 70 per cent of Khmer people living in Tra Vinh.

In Tra Vinh, the VBCF and SSC's project plans to develop 1,100 hectares of F1 hybrid corn area, and provide seeds, finance and technical assistance for 2,200 local farmers.

Hang Phi Quang, SSC's chairman and CEO, said the project was expected to help local Khmer farmers to overcome poverty.

The model helps farmers increase income to VND20 million (US$950) per hectare each crop.

The model, which provided farmers with seeds, finance and technical assistance to develop F1 hybrid corn area in Tra Vinh, would be scaled up to other provinces in Mekong Delta to help farmers overcome poverty, Quang said.

Converting to corn cultivation from paddy helps to triple profits for the farmers.

Daniel Oporto, Agriculture Sector leader of Netherlands Development Organisation, which manages VBCF, said co-operation between the company and farmers had been a successful model for farmers and the country.

"Farmers can increase their income, because they are moving from rice production to corn production. And it is the best way when they work with a company that provides them knowledge," said Oporto. Farmers earn nearly triple their previous income in other provinces such as Long An and An Giang.

Daniel said the Vietnamese Government has a successful agricultural restructuring model which has allowed the private sector to invest in factories, farms, and technical transfer to farmers.


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