Central Highlands faces coffee picker shortage amid Covid travel woes

By Thi Ha   November 4, 2021 | 02:00 am PT
Central Highlands faces coffee picker shortage amid Covid travel woes
Hai in the central highlands province of Kon Tum picks ripe coffee cherries, 2021. Photo by VnExpress/Thi Ha
The Central Highlands, Vietnam's coffee growing hub, faces a shortage of coffee pickers, estimated at over 50 percent, because seasonal workers are fearful of Covid-19.

The coffee harvest season began several days ago, but Hoang Oanh in Da Lat, Lam Dong Province, has not managed to hire any pickers yet.

She said: "Our family has over two hectares of coffee plants with an output of 35 tons. Many coffee cherries have already ripened and fallen."

If she could not find pickers soon, she would have to mobilize family members and close relatives to do the work.

Ha, another coffee grower in Lam Dong, said his family’s three-hectare coffee farm needs to be harvested now, but seasonal workers from the provinces of Binh Thuan, Ninh Thuan and Khanh Hoa are afraid of contracting Covid and refuse to travel.

"We have offered pickers wages of VND100,000 for 100 kilograms of coffee cherries, up from VND80,000 ($3.52) during previous crops. We will cover their accommodation and food expenses here. But they have yet to accept our offer."

He plans to ask his neighbors to help pick the coffee for him, and he would do the same for them later.

Other Central Highlands provinces like Dak Lak, Kon Tum and Gia Lai are facing similar labor shortages.

Hai of Dak Ha District in Kon Tum Province said her family members are working on the farm, and she plans to seek help from other villagers. She would similarly help them when their coffee cherries ripen, she said.

"No coffee crop has been as difficult as this year."

According to the Lam Dong Department of Agriculture and Rural Development, the province has some 174,000 hectares of coffee and an annual output of 2.3 million tons of cherries.

It needs some 40,000 seasonal workers from other provinces in addition to local workers.

Dak Lak, Vietnam’s coffee capital with 209,900 hectares under the crop, has a 50 percent picker shortage. In Gia Lai and Kon Tum, the shortages are 40 percent and 60 percent.

Vietnam is the world’s second largest coffee producer behind Brazil. Last year its exports were worth $2.74 billion.

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