Central Highlands in Vietnam gets fresh coffee boost

HCM CITY - Around four million coffee seedlings will be provided to farmers in the Central Highlands this year, raising the total number supplied there under a project to help farmers in the region replace old and stunted coffee trees to nearly 11 million.

This was announced by the Western Highlands Agriculture and Forestry Science Institute (WASI) and Nestle Viet Nam, the developers of the project called NESCAFE Plan, this week on the sidelines of the Buon Ma Thuot Coffee Festival being held in Dak Lak Province until March 12.

Daily training courses for farmers in sustainable coffee production have also been organised during the festival.

Le Ngoc Bau, director of WASI, said the project helped resolve difficulties involved in replacing old coffee trees.

Besides, with Nestle underwriting 50 per cent of the seedling costs, the project helped speed up replacement of old and stunt coffee trees, he said.

"The project has also accelerated the entry into the market of new coffee varieties with yields of up to seven tonnes per hectare, almost double the current average."

Besides providing disease-free and high-quality seedlings, the project also offers farmers technical assistance with regard to the international 4C (Common Code for Coffee Community) standards for sustainable production and trading.

The number of coffee growers certified as adopting 4C standards has shot up from 1,745 in 2011, when the programme started, to more than 13,800 last year.

According to the Ministry of Agriculture and Rural Development, the country has around 622,000ha under coffee, with the Central Highlands accounting for nearly 95 per cent of the area and 99 per cent of output.

The area of farms with old, stunted coffee plants was increasing in the Central Highlands, resulting in a decrease in output, Le Van Duc, deputy head of the Department of Crop Production, told a conference held recently in HCM City.

According to reports from agriculture departments in Central Highland provinces, the region needs to replant by 2020 around 200,000ha, which have coffee trees that are more than 20 years old.

Dak Lak needs to replace 85,000ha; Lam Dong, 59,000ha; Gia Lai, 27,000ha; and Dak Nong, 24,000ha.