Trees cut down in coconut land amid price drop
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While Ben Tre is renowned as the kingdom of coconuts, a large number of farmers in the southern province are rushing to chop down their coconut trees as selling the fruits seems nearly impossible.
Selling a dozen of coconuts is now even not enough to buy a kilogram of rice, farmers said on June 7, since each coconut costs a mere VND800, or 3.8 US cents.
| Nguyen Van Kha, a coconut farmer in Ben Tre City, cuts down his coconut trees |
Farmers thus began to seek woodcutters to empty their coconut plantations.
Dao Thi Xiem, who grows more than 200 coconut trees on her 7,000-square-meter garden in Nhon Thanh Commune of Ben Tre City, said she is having 70 percent of the garden cut down to switch to growing grapefruits.
“I’ve been growing coconuts over the last 30 years, and it’s really hurt felling them down,” she said.
“But I cannot make end meets with the fruits’ dirt cheap prices.”
Tran Van Tien, a woodcutter, said he is having the busiest time of his life.
“The list of customers now fills up my handbook, while I can only manage to fell down 20 – 30 trees a day” said Tien.
He said he has so far cut down some thousands of trees for 200 coconut farmers in Giong Trom District.
“I had to reject orders from farmers in other districts, as the work here is already too much to handle,” he added.
At the coconut buying facilities, unsold fruits are spotted in huge piles, most of which have sprouted.
Vo Thi Lan, owner of one such facility, said she suffers from an unsold inventory of 700,000 coconuts over the last three months.
“More than 70 percent of the fruits have sprouted,” she said.
Slumping demand, prices
Coconut farmers are in critical situation as prices have slumped to record low, and traders in some localities have refused to buy the fruits, according to Ben Tre Department of Industry and Trade.
The reason is, the department said, supply has outgrown demand, as global consumption and exporting prices of products made from coconuts have fallen sharply.
Exporting prices of copra fell 56 percent from $2,730 in September to only $1,150 a ton at the moment, it said.
While the Chinese used to come directly to Ben Tre City to buy millions of coconuts a day, current purchase has now dropped by as much as 70 percent.
“We can only advise farmers not to compete with each other in cutting down prices, and encourage them to cooperate during this hard time,” said Pham Thi Han, the department’s deputy director.
Meanwhile, Ben Tre’s authorities have asked the provincial coconut association to call on local coconut processors to buy from farmers at stable prices to assist them.