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Vietnam farmers bury chili plants alive as buyer breaks promise

Sunday, March 06, 2016, 09:33 GMT+7

Several dozen of hectares of chili pepper crops in the north-central Vietnamese province of Nghe An have been ‘buried alive’ as the company that had promised to buy them did not show up at harvest time.

While their fields are reddened with ripe chili peppers, farmers in Hoa Son Commune, Anh Son District had no other choice but to destroy the plants.

More than 120 farmers in the commune have destroyed nearly 12 hectares of chili crops as the buyer is nowhere to be seen.

Growers uprooted the chili trees and threw them down to the big holes used as water reservoirs for the live burial.

“Our time and money spent on tending to the crops are now wasted,” said Nguyen Thi Men, a 53-year-old grower who has just buried her chili plants alive.

“We had to destroy the chili crops to switch to other plants such as corn and sugarcane.”

Men said more than 120 households in her village grew chili and all had to do the same with their crops.

Nguyen Van Minh, a 62-year-old grower, said he does not know what to do with his 0.15 hectare field full of the red, ripe chili peppers.

In 2014, when authorities in Hoa Son encouraged local farmers to grow chili peppers, Minh followed the call, and in fact raked in VND27 million (US$1,205) from his 0.15 hectare crop.

“The earning was three to four times higher than growing other plants,” he said, adding it was such an initial success that motivated him to expand his crop.

“But in 2015, prices dropped and no one came to buy my products, so I just left my crop abandoned,” he said.

Minh and his chili trees. Photo: Tuoi Tre

Nguyen Huu Tho, chairman of the Hoa Son administration, revealed that an agro-forestry company based in the neighboring province of Thanh Hoa is to blame for the hardship of local chili growers.

In 2014 the company contracted with the Hoa Son administration to buy all products of the commune’s chili growers, Tho said.

“There were only a few households joining the program then and they indeed earned much bigger profits by selling to that company,” the official said.

The success has sent more local farmers to join the program, expanding the total area of chili crops in the commune to 12 hectares with 122 participating households in 2015.

“These farmers are expected to harvest some 360 metric tons of chili peppers but the company suddenly stopped purchases,” Tho said.

Local authorities have called for help from a company in Nghe An, but still failed to help clear all the supply.

Besides Hoa Son, five other communes in Anh Son District, with hundreds of chili growers, are suffering the same ‘bitter season.’

Nguyen Dinh Dang, head of the district’s agriculture bureau, told Tuoi Tre (Youth) newspaper on Friday that the district has some 30 hectares of chili crops, with a total supply of thousands of metric tons.

“The [Thanh Hoa-based] company not only stopped buying, but also owes them VND300 million [$13,393],” Dang said.

“We have worked with the company but they said they are also facing difficulties and thus unable to resolve the problem.”

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