High-alum soil puts farmers in the red

Published: 02/06/2011 05:00

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Thousands of farmers living in the buffer
zone of U Minh Forest in southern Kien Giang Province are in debt as rice cannot
grow well in the high-alum soil there.


Le Van
Chuong, a farmer in the upper part of the forest, said the soil caused the slow
growth of rice, resulting in low yield.

“Each
1,000sq. m. yields only 100-140kg. It is insufficient for our food needs,” he
said.


Normally, each 1,000sq. m in other areas in the Cuu Long (Mekong) Delta produce
around 900kg of rice.


Chuong
said he had lost the capability to pay for the loan, which was taken out 10
years ago.


“I took
out the loan of VND29 million (US$1,400) to expand production, but I have failed
to pay it back to the bank, including monthly interest,” he said.


Farmer
Tran Van Nam said he had no money to pay back the loan, and was forced to take
out other loans from individuals to prepare for a new crop.


The
farmers resettled in the buffer zone 11 years ago, following a proposal by local
authorities in 1999 to develop the economy there.


They
said they were supported by bank loans, but rice and sugarcane cultivation had
low yields because of the poor land and bad weather.


However,
cajeput growth was good, but at the time of harvest, the price of the wood for
construction materials dropped sharply, causing losses.


Authorities in Minh Thuan Commune, which is based in the buffer zone, said
families there were in debt to banks, with an average amount of VND60 million
($2,800) or even VND100 million ($4,800) of debt.


However,
many families can earn just enough for their food every day.


Nguyen
Viet Hung, deputy chairman of the commune, told Tuoi Tre (Youth) newspaper: “The
loan amounts have been doubled because monthly interests have not been paid.”


Six
thousand farmers in U Minh Ha’s (lower U Minh) buffer zone are in debt as well.

Nguyen Thi Kim Lien, deputy chairman of U Minh Ha District
People’s Committee, said banks in the district had agreed with the committee to
permit families in or near the poverty line to pay the loan principal only.


For
other families, banks will permit the repayment of principal and monthly
interest, but exempt the over-term interest.

Lien
said there were 1,100 families in debt with a total of VND32 billion ($1.5
million) of loan principal and VND41 billion ($1.9 million) in interest.


In U
Minh Thuong (upper U Minh), there are 32,000 families with a total debt of VND76
billion ($3.6 million).


Ly Nam
Hai, director of Ca Mau Agribank, said the bank would consider exempting the
families with difficulties from over-term interest and deduct 20 per cent of the
total monthly interest.


The
families had been encouraged to pay the initial loan amounts first, then the
interest later, Hai said.


VietNamNet/Viet
Nam News

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