Fall in rice price hurts farmers in Mekong Delta

After the Tet holiday (the Lunar New Year), rice prices dropped sharply hurting farmers in the Mekong Delta who had no choice but to sell rice at low prices.

A rice paddy in the Mekong Delta

In some places, rice prices were down more than VND1,500 per kg. Farmers in the region are going to harvest hundreds of thousands of hectares of winter-spring rice but because of the decline in price, traders have abandoned stakes in many places, making it difficult for farmers to find buyers. To avoid further risk and loss, many farmers are forced to sell rice at low prices.

In recent days, Ms. Le Kim Mai in My Thanh Trung Commune of Vinh Long Province’s Tam Binh District and her family members have been running around looking for traders to buy and transport nearly 2 hectares of rice which was harvested in nearly one week.

Ms. Mai said that in mid-December 2023, a trader agreed to buy rice at VND8,700 a kg and even put down a deposit. However, after the Tet holiday, the buyer said he could only buy it for VND7,400 per kg for many unacceptable reasons. Ms. Mai shared that despite efforts to negotiate with the buyer but all to no avail, my family resorted to harvesting and drying rice to wait for better prices.

Similarly, many farmers in Mekong Delta localities are currently falling into difficulties as traders abandon their stakes while rice is about to be harvested. Many farmers said they had to accept selling rice at low prices because prolonging the harvest time would incur risks, and losses sometimes greater than the deposit.

Farmer Quach Minh Khoa in Soc Trang Province said that he had just sold ST25 rice on an area of 4 hectares for VND9,400 a kg, even though the price in contract with traders before the Tet holiday was VND9,800 a kg.

Traders decided to give up their stakes at the time of harvest; therefore, his family was impossible to do but sell at low prices, farmer Khoa said. He added that to avoid risks, he decided to sell rice at a price lower than the deposit price of VND400 per kg and lost about VND20 million for nearly 50 tons of rice.

In the winter-spring crop of 2023-2024, farmers in Tien Giang Province have sown more than 45,000 hectares and currently, nearly 2,000 hectares have been harvested, with an average yield of 71 quintals a ha.

Mr. Nguyen Hai Nam in Cai Lay District said that his family grew 1.6 hectares of rice. Before the Tet holiday, traders made a deposit to buy at VND9,000 per kg. However, when the farmer harvested his agricultural product, traders only bought at VND8,100 a kg. He said that though the profit was low, but he still accepted to sell explaining that the rice price has recently been unstable.

In Long An, Chairman Luu Van Nga of the Management Board of Hung Phu Agricultural Cooperative in Vinh Hung District informed that a household in the cooperative had just harvested 30 acres of fields, selling more than 200 tons of rice at VND 8,300 a kg for traders, a reduction of VND250 a kg compared to the initial deposit price.

The majority of farmers in Vinh Long, Soc Trang, Bac Lieu, Tien Giang, and Long An provinces accepted to sell rice at the new price offered by traders which is VND1,000-VND1,500 a kg lower than the initial deposit price, which means farmers lose about VND1 million (US$40.58)-VND1.5 million a ton of rice compared to the prices in their contracts.

Rice trader Truong Thuy Hien in Tam Binh District of Vinh Long Province affirmed traders didn’t want to put down deposits or force farmers to sell at low prices. However, because rice prices have continuously dropped sharply since the Tet holiday until now, traders have continuously suffered heavy losses; thus, traders have to give up their deposits to cut further losses.

According to Ms. Hien, the current sharp decline in rice prices is because processing enterprises have been restraining purchases while they have no new contracts for export.

Deputy Director Nguyen Van Thich of Tan Long Cooperative in Hau Giang Province said that rice prices increased to VND9,000-VND10,000 a kg and ST25 rice price slid to VND12,000 a kg in the days before the Tet holiday because traders offered high prices compared to real prices. However, during the main season, rice prices stabilize based on the actual needs of exporters.

Along with that, after the national holiday, drought comes early, and the cost of transportation from rice fields to gathering points is high. Consequently, it is difficult for traders to buy at a high price as the deposit.

According to Departments of Agriculture and Rural Development of many localities in the Mekong Delta, farmers still make a profit of VND25 million-VND35 million a hectare at the prices of VND7,000-VND8,000 per kg. However, abnormal increases and decreases in rice prices in a short period of time are a problem, local administrations need to take measures to clarify whether or not businesses and traders are manipulating prices to stabilize the market and protect farmers’ rights.

Vietnam Food Association reported that the current price of 5-percent broken rice fetches US$628 a ton which some rice exporting enterprises in the Mekong Delta are offering. Specifically the export price of 5-percent broken rice is $620 a ton, fragrant rice $700 a ton, Japanese rice $750 a ton.

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