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.