Agricultural allowances from the central government to farmers have been squeezed by authorities at the commune level in the Mekong Delta of Vietnam for years.audio
Farmers say they have had to involuntarily extract the grants right after receiving them to contribute to state-run funds at the suggestion of commune-level authorities, who paid the sums.
However, local authorities reply that they only encourage farmers, and they all had agreed to the contributions.
The central government applied a decision to give agricultural allowance to farmers in 2012, at a rate of VND500,000 (US$24) per hectare of rice field per year.
In addition, the government also grants an equal sum per hectare of rice field a year to local authorities to invest in farming infrastructure such as roads, dikes, canals, irrigation networks and information posts.
But a majority of farmers refused to apply for the grants because it took a long time to complete procedures to be given just half of what they were due because of involuntary contribution to funds.
Huynh Thu Hien, vice head of the budget – economics department of the law-making People’s Council of Kien Giang Province in the Mekong Delta, admitted that authorities of many communes in Kien Luong District paid the sums to farmers with one hand and collected a part of the amount with the other hand to build roads.
Le Van Thai, a farmer in Vinh Thanh Trung Commune of Chau Phu District in An Giang Province, said the annual annuity is paid in two rounds and farmers have to complete documents twice.
With one hectare of rice field, he should have been granted VND500,000 a year, but was given just VND250,000 in 2012.
Months later, he was asked to come to the commune’s office to receive the remaining sum but he said he ignored it because “it took a lot of time and cost me VND150,000 in transport and paper fees to get VND250,000.”
Many families have refused the allowances, he added.
Nguyen Phuoc Nen, vice chairman of the People’s Committee of Chau Phu District, said the central government was late in transferring the grant to his locality.
So far, An Giang Province has distributed twice in 2012 and half of the sum in 2013.
According to regulations, a farmer has to fill in a form and apply notarized copies of his identification card, family record book, and the red book which is for the right of land use.
Many families have already given their red book to banks as security for loans, so they had to borrow them to make copies.
Many families, especially those who own fewer than a hectare of rice field, refused to make the documents needed for the grants, Nen confessed.
In the mean time, An Phu District of An Giang was even tardier than the central government in distributing the grants.
An Phu received the full sum for 2012 and half of 2013, but it only handed over half of the 2012 amount to farmers.
Le Thi Thuy, who has eight hectares of rice field in Tri Ton District of An Giang, said she was given VND2 million ($96) each time but was required to make contributions to local state funds for building roads.
“I was asked to contribute to a fund, I just did it and did not dare to ask what fund it was,” Thuy admitted.
Farmers often extracted half of what they received for the funds.
Tran Van Liem, a farmer in My Lam Commune of Hon Dat District in Kien Giang, said he contributed to funds without receiving any receipt for the grants in 2013 and 2014.
Nguyen Chi Buu, chairman of the People’s Committee of My Lam Commune of Hon Dat District, argued that the deduction of 50 percent from the allowances was in line with the policies of district and commune authorities.
Over 80 percent of farmers agreed and signed the decision, he added.
But local farmers confirmed that they have never heard of the policies or the agreement.
Tran Quang Cui, deputy director of the Department of Agriculture and Rural Development of Kien Giang, said communal authorities must pay full allowances to farmers without any deduction because the central government pays an equal sum to communes for building infrastructure.