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Pepper farmers celebrate higher prices
17 | 09 | 2007
Falling pepper prices are a thing of the past, and pepper farmers in Quang Tri Province are now hustling to cultivate their plantations since recent crop harvests have managed to bring them millions of dong each.

Tran Thi Thuan, from Gio Linh District of Quang Tri Province, who has an eight year-old pepper plantation with 150 vines, along with a newly planted 250 vine plantation, is thankful for her increased income.

"I used to work at a rubber plantation, but it was very difficult and I had to quit. I began growing pepper eight years ago, and found it very profitable," said Thuan.

This year, her plantation will bring in roughly 800 kilograms of pepper, with an equivalent profit of VND15 million.

"The older the vines, the more pepper they produce, so the income increases year by year," Thuan said.

But she is not the only one making her fortune by planting pepper in the province.

When pepper prices fell below VND20,000 (US$1.25) a kilogram in 1998 and 1999, many families fell on hard times, owing large debts to the banks. They either let the plantations fall fallow or they moved on to other crops. But in recent years, pepper prices have gone up to between VND50,000 – 60,000 (up to $4), and people are now investing more money and effort into the crop and finding better planting methods.

Hoang Ngoc Thu, in the Dai Do Village of Cam Lo Province, continued to plant pepper even through the hard times. He can now be pleased with the results of his determination. He happens to have earned tens of millions of dong from his 0.5ha plantation over the past two years.

"I always believed that pepper would come back around. When the price went down and people shifted to other crops, I continued to tend my pepper plantation. It was the proper planting and tending techniques that helped me harvest such high quality pepper," said Thu.

"This year, I harvested 600 kilograms of pepper."

Long-standing granary

According to statistics provided by the Department of Agriculture and Rural Development in Quang Tri Province, the province currently has a total area of 2,085ha out of the country’s 52,000ha of pepper, most of which is planted in the Cam Lo, Vinh Linh and Gio Linh districts.

These areas have favourable soil conditions, especially the area in Cam Lo District called, "Cua," located on Cam Nghia and Cam Chinh communes, an area that has been famous for its pepper for hundreds of years. According to Le Quang Luc, Head of the Department of Agriculture and Rural Development in the Cam Lo District, the Cua pepper variety has been planted here since the 15th century.

"Thanks to its climate and soil, pepper planted in the Cua area has a distinctive taste and aroma that cannot be mistaken with any other variety. It is as good as the variety planted on Phu Quoc Island," said Luc.

Recognising pepper’s value in the province, the Bank for Investment and Development of Viet Nam in recent years has provided preferential interest loans to farmers wanting to invest more in the crop. And while in the past farmers relied only on their past experiences to grow the crop, the Department of Agriculture Extension is now helping them learn new planting and tending techniques. They also receive instructions from the Department of Plant Protection to protect their crops against harmful insects.

"This year the farmers are happy because the price has increased sharply, sometimes reaching as high as VND120,000 per kilogram ($7.5), though this mostly depends on market fluctuations. But even if the price falls to VND30,000 ($1.8), we will be able to make ends meet," said Thuc.

Since the area’s conditions are so well-suited to pepper growth, farmers are hoping to receive more assistance in preferential loans and tending techniques to give them a stable income from the crop so they can continue planting, just as their ancestors did, and have Quang Tri remain one of the country’s biggest pepper granaries.



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