Vietnam farmers switch to pepper as coffee prices fall
Experts have warned, however, that unzoned pepper development could hurt farmers in the long term. In Dak Lak Province, considered the country’s coffee capital, many farmers are now growing pepper.
Hoàng Minh Hùng cut down 1ha of coffee trees to grow pepper in Dak Lak’s Krông Năng District in March. “Many families here have switched to pepper,” he said.
Dak Lak has the largest pepper cultivating area in the Central Highlands region, according to the provincial People’s Committee. As of May, Dak Lak had nearly 22,000ha of pepper, exceeding 15,000ha compared to the province’s zoned pepper cultivation area for 2015.
Similarly, the Central Highlands province of Gia Lai plans to have 6,000ha of pepper in 2020 but the province’s current pepper area is more than 12,000ha.
Đỗ Hà Nam, chairman of the Việt Nam Pepper Association, said the country’s pepper area had reached about 100,000ha as of the end of March, double the country’s pepper area zoned to 2020 by the Ministry of Agriculture and Rural Development.
The pepper areas in Southeast and Tây Nguyên (Central Highlands) provinces would continue to increase by 10 – 20 percent in the coming time, he said.
"If agencies do not have measures to limit unzoned pepper development, the pepper sector’s sustainable development will be affected," he said.
Currently, pepper farmers grow the plant on many kinds of soil, including in areas not suitable for pepper cultivation.
Many farmers have also intercropped pepper in rubber orchards, which can cause rubber trees infected with phytopthora, a kind of fungi, to die, according to experts. ■