Pottery handicraft faces extinction in Vinh Long Province

A project to build the Co Chien Industrial Zone in the Mekong Delta province of Vinh Long since 2003 is being blamed as the main cause of disappearance of the once flourishing pottery crafts business run by several villages along the Co Chien River.
Saigon Giai Phong reporters visited Thanh Duc Commune in Long Ho District recently and saw several units in the villages that had narrowed production or even shut down.

Duong Hoang Son, a unit owner, said that pottery handicraft is on the verge of extinction now. Several skilled workers have been forced to quit as they cannot earn enough for their daily bread.

Pointing to three kilns, Son said earlier they had been fully used; operating all day and night for some 13 years, but still could not cope with the demand then.

The three kilns were used by 40 pottery workers who were paid upto VND8-15 million a month. Thanh Duc Commune had sixty units at that time and they all did prosperous business.

Ho Minh Chau, owner of the once flourishing Van Thang pottery unit, said that earlier his unit made 5,000 products a month. However they have fallen in gloomy times over the last five years with fewer and fewer orders.

Ten years ago, a set of three ceramic items fetched VND60,000. The price has remained unchanged till now, while production costs have tripled.

According to Chau, a kiln needs VND300 million a month to operate. Previously, customers were willing to pay in advance and get commodities later. Now they just pay after three-six months delivery causing several units to go bankrupt.

Ho Van Vang, chairman of the Vinh Long Province Pottery Association, said more than 130 units were located in Long Lo and Mang Thit Districts in 2000. They provided an average of 50-60 million ceramic products annually.

Vinh Long pottery products were exported to Asian, European and American markets to yield US$40 million every year.

However, unhealthy competition among units who tried to reduce prices to get more customers, falling demand and rapid exhaustion of raw material has all led to the present state of despair.

The Co Chien Industrial Zone plan has also led to this situation for pottery units in Thanh Duc Commune.

Authorized organs informed that they would take 30 hectares in Thanh Duc Commune, including the pottery village, for construction of the IZ in 2003.

They would give compensation of VND45,000 per square meter for building land and VND35,000-40,500 per square meter for orchard or farm land. Each pottery unit would receive an extra VND60 million for resettling.

Several households disagreed with the above rates. This has led to long drawn legal proceedings, which has pinned the project down until now.

Chau said that with the above compensation rate, local people cannot afford to resume their pottery craft in another new place.

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