Coffee harvest season in Central Highlands

By Tran Hoa   December 15, 2021 | 05:00 am PT
The Central Highlands province of Gia Lai is in the midst of coffee harvest season. But farmers are facing a shortage of seasonal coffee pickers due to Covid-19.

The Central Highlands, Vietnam's coffee growing hub, currently has over 600,000 hectares of coffee, with Gia Lai boasting approximately 100,000 hectares, ranking third in the region.
Coffee is one of Gia Lai's primary crops, with roughly 88,000 hectares concentrated in Chu Prong, La Grai, Dak Doa, Mang Yang, and Chu Se districts, producing 254,440 tons per year.
Workers from the south-central provinces of Quang Ngai, Phu Yen, Binh Dinh, and othershave not returned to Gia Lai in their former numbers due to Covid-19 fears, forcing farms to hire local pickers.


Eight local laborers brought food and water to Pham Xuan Hoa's coffee plantation in Ia Sao Commune at the end of November to begin the harvest. Two workers per row lay tarps at the base of the trees to protect the fruit from falling to the ground during picking.
"I phoned everyone and was able to hire eight workers in Krong Pa District," Hoa said.
Before entering his field to pick coffee, workers must show Covid-19 vaccination certificates and submit health declarations.


Nay Rin Da, 25, of Krong Pa District, and her husband finished processing the family's cassava crop about a month ago.
They had both intended to ride their motorcycles more than 150 kilometers to La Grai District to pick coffee. However, Covid kept them at bay while farm owners only accepted workers whohad received at least one vaccine dose.
Da and her husband asked six other individuals to hire a car to go to Hoa's to harvest coffee after getting vaccinated. They'd been working here for four days.


Every day, she and her husband harvest 600-700 kilos of coffee, earning VND100,000 ($4.33) per 100 kilos harvested.
"We've been here a few times before to collect coffee, but in earlier crop seasons. However, renting a car is more difficult this year," Da said, adding they had planned to work until Christmas and then return home.


Because each tree has a large amount of coffee to harvest, it takes two persons 5-10 minutes to pick all the berries.


Other employees take out leaves and place them in bags. Each sack weighs around 40 kilograms.
Nay O (left), 27, was having difficulty because it was his first time harvesting coffee. Because he didn't thoroughly lay out his tarp, many coffeeberrieswere strewn on the ground,which it tooka while to gather up.
"After a few days of practice, my brother and I are now the fastest coffee pickers in the group, pickingeightquintalsdaily," O boasted.


Since 1995, more than 2,500 coffee plants have been cultivated in Hoa's 2.5-hectare garden. Hoa expects his farm will produce 10 tons of beans this year. He will make around VND400 million if he sells them for VND40,000 per kilo. He will make a profit of VND200 million after deducting the cost of care.
It is projected that his coffee farm would be entirely harvested in roughly a week.
"I recruited 30 employees for the last crop, and they finished harvesting in two days. However, the protracted picking this year caused the berries to ripen and lose weight."


The workers' lunch consists of rice and papaya.
They say they try to save money for their children and to shop for Lunar New Year, around two months from now.
After eating, the group took a break for 15-20 minutes below a coffee tree. In the evening, they eat and stay for free in the farm's huts.


Nay Rin Da keeps track of the group's harvested coffee as well as food costs while on the job.


Hoa, the farm owner, buys rice, spices and drinking water for the workers.These costs will be deducted from their wages.


After weighing, the coffee sacks are loaded onto a truck to be transported to another location for roasting.


Households with lots of coffee yield will sell them fresh or send them to purchasing companies to be roasted.
Pham Thi Thu Hang,deputy head of the Agriculture and Rural Development Department of La Grai District, said owing to the effect of the pandemic, over 5,000 coffee pickers in the region were lacking this year.
Vietnam is the world’s second largest coffee producer behind Brazil. Last year, its exports were worth $2.74 billion.

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