Suspension of sugar-cane mills threatens farmers
  • By Minh Giang-Pham Tam | | September 20, 2014 05:40 PM

Thousands of farmers in the Mekong Delta have been worried about their livelihoods since the Ministry of Natural Resources and Environment proposed to halt the operation of two sugar-cane mills.

Farmers harvest sugar-cane

Two sugar-cane mills in Ca Mau and Tra Vinh provinces have been repeatedly ordered to deal with pollution problems caused by those facilities since 2003, but those problem have remained unsolved. In 2013, there was a resolution on industrial pollution which demanded the two mills, Tra Vinh Sugar Plant and Thoi Binh Sugar Plant, to take effective measures to deal with their pollution by the end of June, 2014.

An inspection carried out by the Ministry of Natural Resources and Environment revealed that the factories had ignored the warnings. The ministry then fined each factory VND230 million (USD10,950) and proposed a nine-month suspension. In August, Ca Mau and Tra Vinh provincial authorities expressed agreement with ministry's determination to strictly deal with environment pollution.

However, the authorities asked the ministry to wait until the two factories finish sugar production for this year's crop before enforcing the suspension, which would be delayed until May 2015 for Tra Vinh Plant and until July 2015 for Thoi Binh Plant.

Picking up sugar-cane at Tra Vinh Factory

According to provincial authorities, suspending the plants' operations at this particular time would adversely affect the lives of over 3,000 farmers, who have grown 8,000 hectares of sugar-cane. In addition, the provinces would have to bear a huge burden as a result of increased unemployment.

In this season, the price of sugar-cane is too low to profit the farmers. Luu Nghiep Anh, a farmer in Tra Vinh, said, "If the plant stopped working, the prices would plummet. Traders would reduce what they are willing to pay because of the increased transport fees needed to take the sugar cane to sugar mills farther away."

Nguyen Thanh Long, chairman of the Vietnam Sugarcane and Sugar Association, said, "We can only ask other plants in the Mekong Delta to adjust their schedules in order to help the farmers in Ca Mau and Tra Vinh in case the two factories there are shut down." However, few factories are enthusiastic about the idea because the profit would low and it would be inconvenient for them to change their schedules.

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