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Farmers chop down sugar cane to grow cassava

For the last 37 years, Quang Ngai province has been considered the “sugar cane metropolis” of the central region. However, farmers in Quang Ngai province do not grow sugar cane any more, but cassavas instead. Cassavas can bring higher profits than sugar cane. The area for growing sugar cane has been reduced gradually in the central province.

Currently, dozens of intermediary merchants are competing fiercely with cassava processing plants to collect cassava from farmers. Plants are purchasing fresh cassava from farmers at 1800 dong per kilo, and merchants have also raised the purchase price to 1800 dong per kilo. Cassava slicing machines have been running day and night, while merchants have been going to every corner in villages and communes to collect cassavas.

As the demand for cassava has increased, farmers have given up sugar cane farming and shifted to growing cassavas. In Tinh Tan Tay commune in Son Tinh district, which had been well known as a sugar cane area, 2/3 of the sugar cane plants have been chopped down to make way for cassava cultivation. People in the commune now rush to sell cassavas to merchants, though the harvest will only come in two months.

Nguyen Thi Hai, a farmer in Tinh An commune, said that last year, she sold fresh cassava at 400,000-500,000 dong per ton, while she now can sell it at 900,000 per ton. If she sells dried cassavas, she will get 1.8 million dong per ton. Hai said that farmers can have two cassava crops a year, while they do not need to spend much time to take care of the cassava fields. Meanwhile, sugar cane only has one crop a year, while the price of a ton of sugar cane is lower at 700,000-750,000 dong per ton.

Since the profits brought in by cassavas are double those of sugar cane, farmers have rushed to grow cassavas. As a result, sugar refineries have been seriously lacking sugar cane to process, while cassava processing plants have been enlarging.

According to Le Tuan Toan, Deputy General Director of Quang Ngai Farm Produce and Food Company, the company now has five cassava processing plants, including two in Quang Ngai, one in Phu Yen, one in Dak To, and one in Tay Ninh province. A bio-fuel plant that makes fuel from sliced cassava is now under construction in Quang Ngai province.

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