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Land aggregation spurs sugary sweet revolution
03 | 10 | 2007
Land aggregation as a new method of harvesting sugar cane has been so successful, many people in the industry have hailed it as a ‘revolution’.

Since land aggregation was introduced, the 2007-2008 sugar cane crop has been substantially bigger than any previous harvest.

Quang Ngai is one of the three traditional and major cane growing provinces in Viet Nam and canes grown there contain much more sugar than those grown in any other locality.

However, the crop of sugar canes was spread over many small and scattered pieces of land that were an average size of 0.2ha per farming household. Because small amounts of the plant were spread over many different areas, growing the canes become "less important" than other crops in terms of household income.

Statistics from the province indicate that in the 2003-2004 crop, 8,500ha of land was given over to growing sugar cane which had a yield of 58 tonnes per ha.

In 2004-2005, the figure dropped to 7,032 and last year it was only 6,090ha with a yield of 54 tonnes/ha and 45 tonnes/ha respectively.

The dwindling sugar cane acreage and low yields forced the two sugar producing factories in the province to operate at only 36 per cent of their capacity.

Facing such a gloomy situation, the Quang Ngai Sugar company, affiliated to the Ministry of Agriculture and Rural Development (MARD), last year decided to equitise both plants.

One of the first proposals to improve production capacity was to relocate the Quang Phu sugar plant to An Khe to bring it closer to the cane fields. But the proposal was turned down by the Quang Ngai provincial People’s Committee.

Determined to improve the situation, the People’s Committee adopted numerous policies to encourage farmers to increase cane acreage.

As a result, the acreage for growing the 2006-2007 cane crop expanded by 675ha and the yield increased by 11 tonnes per ha.

Steps forward

On September 7, 2007 the Quang Ngai provincial People’s Committee adopted another mechanism to support cane farmers. The committee set a target to increase cane acreage to 9,000ha by 2010 with a yield of 500,000 tonnes per year.

Local authorities promised to invest in infrastructure, irrigation networks, advanced technology and human resource development.

Truong Ngoc Nhi, Vice Chairman of the provincial People’s Committee said the province had agreed to accelerate the movement of land aggregation in a hope to put an end to wasteful farming practices.

"The land aggregation movement started in Quang Ngai in late 2006 as a pilot project under Decision 3022 of the provincial People’s Committee," said Nhi.

At first, the project faced many difficulties. Households farming the sugar cane had to change from traditional cultivation practices and immediate benefits they gained by growing the crop were threatened.

The provincial authorities arranged meetings with the grass-roots authorities, the department of Agriculture and Rural Development (DARD) and the Quang Ngai Sugar Company to discuss ways to solve problems that occurred during the land aggregation process.

After several meetings, they decided to start the land aggregation at three sugar cane growing co-operatives in Tinh Giang, in Son Tinh District; Tu Son in Binh Son District and Pho Nhon in Duc Pho District.

Following successful completion, the Pho Phong Sugar Plant sent tractors to prepare the land.

Dao Minh Huong, deputy-director of the provincial DARD said the key successes of the pilot program were the practice of democracy and fairness at each level as the process was implemented.

Huong said, lessons learned from the three co-operatives suggested that land aggregation should be conducted one or two months before any crops were ready.

After this, the land should be harvested mechanically.

Sweet company

In the 2007-2008 cane crop, the Quang Ngai Sugar Company decided to provide cane farmers with more than VND1 million per ha.

In addition, the district People’s Committee gave VND500,000 per ha to farmers who switched from growing rice to sugar cane.

With financial and technical support from the sugar company, the cane acreage in the province increased to 8,193ha (1,429ha more compared with the last crop) with an expected yield of about 422,000 tonnes.

Vo Thanh Dang, director general Quang Ngai Sugar company and Chairman of the Viet Nam Sugar Association, said: "Though the sugar yield of this crop is high, it meets only 66 per cent of the two sugar plants’ capacity."

"If we want to reduce the present sugar price by 25 per cent – the same level as other countries in the region - we have to invest more to develop infrastructure and reduce the transport time from the field to the factories," Dang said.

Dang said his company had devised a plan to help farmers improve operating methods.

According to the Viet Nam Sugar Association, in the 2008-2009 crop, Viet Nam wants to increase the sugar cane acreage to 229,357ha and to produce 1.29 million tonnes of sugar-an increase of five per cent against the 2007-2008 crop.

Source: Vietnam News
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