Bumper crops usually lead to lower prices - this reality has been continuously repeated for decades. With rising input costs and the current low rice price, most farmers will make no or very little in the way of profit. In such a situation, some farmer families will be forced to find extra jobs or look for new loans to cover living expenses.
“Tilling may mean losses”
After living by farming for years in Tam Nong District in Dong Thap Province, Le Van Da and his wife clearly understand the difficulties facing farmers. When asked about the rice price, he said bitterly: “Just forget the price! It’s no use worrying.”
Da has two children, the older of which is studying at a college in Ho Chi Minh City, while and the younger is a 9th-grade pupil. Unfortunately, in spite of owning 5,000 square meters of arable land, he is still too poor to pay off previous debts from tuitions fees for his children.
“With the current dropping rice price, most farmers are in a chain of debt. By selling rice in such a time we’ll surely face big losses. We’d better wait for an official price announcement to clearly understand the price fluctuations on the market”, he said.
Da followed his parents to the Thap Muoi area 20 years ago and has worked as a farmer ever since, and he remembers times when his life used to be much easier.
“In the past, even when the rice price dropped, we were not sunk so deeply in debts. Nowadays, the cost of materials is continuously escalating; and the natural conditions are also very harsh with more droughts, floods, and pests. In such a situation, tilling may mean losses. No matter how much land we have, it’s very hard to make profit”.
Many old farmers share Da’s concerns. Without knowing how much profit they can make, most farmers feel that producing rice is a bitter pill to swallow.
Hunger in the bumper crop
The other farmer Nguyen Van Do and his wife Nguyen Thi Be, both from Dong Thap as well, possess half a hectare of productive farming land. They also breed pigs, sell sticky rice, and do other hired work for extra money. The poor couple is busy with the farming business nearly all day, but they can’t earn enough money to support their children’s studies.
The atmosphere in their empty house seemed to become more oppressive and stressful when we accidentally asked about their debts.
Be confided, "In spite of the bumper crop of rice – thanks to applying appropriate techniques, we are still in debt because of the low rice price. Now our total debt is up to several million dong. Farmers like us can’t sell land but we can’t force our children to leave school, either. We don’t know what to do.”
Do reassured his wife, "Now, I can still apply pesticides and plough fields for others. We can also breed pigs to earn more. There won’t be any creditors coming for foreclosure, anyways. Therefore, we should try our best so that our children can finish their studying.”
Worry and sadness made the old farmer couple almost forget their dinner, which is now one of their only two meals in a day. "We don’t have money for three meals any more. In recent years, we’ve cut one meal to save money for our children’s education”, Be said.
Since their children entered high school, Do and his wife have borrowed almost US$1,000 from a bank. After many years, they still can’t repay the original loan. Their land use rights certificate was also kept by the bank as a mortgage.