The ongoing war in Ukraine has affected the global fertiliser supply, among other commodities that keep the world going. Fertiliser prices have gone up in many countries, forcing governments and farmers to implement various strategies. The Kenyan government, for example, has distributed subsidised fertiliser to coffee farmers in an effort to increase both yield and quality and sustain its coffee industry.
In Vietnam, local authorities have been urging farmers to intercrop for some years, both for the agricultural benefit and for the natural price hedging strategy this provides against a negative price movement of any single crop.
The Phnom Penh Post reports that “Intercropping fruit and other plants in coffee orchards offer higher and steady incomes for farmers in Vietnam’s Tay Nguyen (Central Highlands) region, according to the Ministry of Agriculture and Rural Development’s Plant Cultivation Department.” The additional crops include durian, avocado, black pepper, cashew and macadamia.
Lately, coffee farmers in Vietnam have been resorting to intercropping due to rising fertiliser prices. Belarus, Russia and Ukraine are all important fertiliser exporters, but the war has caused the prices to soar. South China Morning News (SCMN) reports that “Coffee growers in top producer Vietnam are planting more profitable crops like avocados, black pepper and durians, which is helping them cope with the soaring fertiliser and fuel costs caused by the war in Ukraine.”
Despite the extra income from supplemental crops, farmers still have to cut back on investment in their coffee trees. Nguyen Nam Hai, the new chair of the Vietnam Coffee and Cocoa Association, said this might lead to a 10 per cent drop in production compared to the same time window one year earlier.
Vietnam is the biggest producer of robusta coffee, a variety considered to be of lesser quality. In spite of that, authorities have been creating programmes to help farmers increase the quality of their coffee, including the Vietnam-Sustainable Agriculture Transformation (VnSAT) Project. Some projects focus on intercropping.
According to Phnom Penh Post, “intercropping produces a diverse range of agricultural products, creates jobs, improves farmers’ incomes, reduces the risk of price and demand fluctuations, and stabilises coffee production, according to the department. It also provides shade for the coffee trees, reducing evaporation, and shelter from winds”.Corresponding to the programme, many farmers have replaced their old trees with new ones, increasing quality and quantity in the process. Farmer Nguyen Van Cong also attested to the improvement of the soil. He also stated that farmers “could avoid depending completely on one kind of crop and be at the mercy of market price fluctuations.”