>> Trees cut down in coconut land amid price drop
“Coconut trees are not like orange, tangerine, or longan – you cannot just cut them down whenever you want,” Phan Van Du, the agency’s deputy head, said in an interview with Tuoi Tre Sunday.
Ben Tre farmers said they could no longer withstand the recent record low price of coconuts, with one costing a mere VND800, or US 38 cents.
But Du said it is just the normal “hold and cold” state of the market, implicating that prices will soon return to higher rates once the global economy recovers.
“Hence, Ben Tre farmers have to stay calm, and try to wait for another time,” he advised.
In the meantime, he suggested that the provincial authorities should provide support to farmers amid this hard time.
“No one can live with the VND800 gained from each coconut.
“The industry and trade authorities should assist local businesses to find outlets for products made from coconuts.
“What’s important is to remind farmers to not grow the fruit en mass, which will lead supply outstripping demand, sending prices down,” he said.
Du added that the cultivation agency has recently encouraged farmers to grow cocoa and other plants in their coconut gardens to improve income.
Some households did follow the advice, and gained considerable money, he said.
Building a castle in the air
Meanwhile, Nguyen Van Hieu, chairman of Ben Tre People’s Committee, insisted that only a minority of local farmers rushed to empty their gardens.
“I believe that they will not chop down the trees, even though they are suffering from the dirt cheap prices,” he told Tuoi Tre.
“What will they live on once the trees are all felled?”
He said provincial authorities and businesses have worked with each other to try to craft a solution several times.
Businesses did try to buy at considerable prices, but soon failed to maintain tem, he said.
“We also encouraged farmers to grow other plants in the coconut plantations, but the coconut market is not only sluggish in Ben Tre or Vietnam alone, but also all around the world.
“Our effort is like building a castle in the air.”
He added that the market fluctuations are unpredictable.
“The market faced a severe supply shortage in the last months of last year, and Chinese traders bought at a high price of VND120,000 a dozen, but the current price is only one tenth of that rate,” he said.
“As far as I know, coconut prices in Indonesia are much higher than in Vietnam, but Chinese traders are now buying there -- it’s their strategy, and we cannot intervene.
“But soon they will return to buy from Vietnam,” he stated.
Last May, Ben Tre hosted a coconut festival which cost some dozens of billion of dong, a sum the public has recently criticized for being wasteful, claiming the money would have been of better use if it had been given to assist farmers.
But Hieu denied this, saying the money was mobilized from the private economic sector rather than the provincial state budget.
“The festival was intended to introduce the image of Ben Tre coconuts and boost trade, which of course does not happen overnight,” he asserted.