Coffee Can’t Beat Cashews

More coffee farmers in the northeast provinces are starting to grow cashew nuts and fruit trees be­cause the price of coffee has dropped significantly in recent years, provincial officials said Thursday.

“We can no longer grow coffee because when we produced it, no trader bought it,” said Kham Kheoun, governor of Ratanakkiri province, who recently stopped growing coffee on his 40-hectare plantation.

Coffee prices reached a high of $2,600 a ton in 1998 but have fallen to about $200 to $300 a ton in local and foreign markets. Now farm­ers are hoping cashew nuts and fruit trees will yield profits.

The price of cashew nuts has remained stable at about $1,600 a ton since 1994. It is also much cheap­er to grow cashew nuts—about $150 a hectare, versus $1,000 a hectare to grow coffee.

The price of coffee started to drop in 1999, said Khoeu Hon, dep­uty director of the Ratanakkiri Agri­culture Department. Farmers aban­doned their fields because no mar­ket existed even at cheap prices. “There is no market for coffee,” he said. “That is why people abandoned such crops.”

Thousands of hectares of land in Ratanakkiri and Mondolkiri province could be used to grow cof­fee, officials said. Farmers re­cently started growing cashew nuts on more than 1,000 hectares of land in Ratanakkiri.

Hor Bun Heng, director of the Mondolkiri Agriculture Depart­ment, said farmers in his province could no longer sell coffee to Viet­nam. “The expense on the plan­tation did not break even,” he said.

Coffee grows on only 80 hec­tares of land in Mondolkiri, Hor Bun Heng said, down from

500 hec­tares a few years ago.

Now farmers are growing fruit trees, he said.

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