Farmers in Ca Mau Province in the Mekong Delta gather crabs for Chinese dealers
Authorities in Ca Mau Province in the Mekong Delta say they are investigating local farmers' accusations that Chinese dealers have disappeared owing them big money.
Most recently on May 16, the police received an accusation from crab farmer Nguyen Van Qui saying that Wang Juan Mei, a 38-year-old Chinese dealer, owed him VND1.12 billion ($53,700) but was nowehere to be found.
Local crab farmers in the province said the woman owed them a total of more than VND10 billion ($480,000) for crabs bought as well as money she had borrowed from them.
Le Thanh Son, police chief of Nam Can District, home to the aggrieved farmers, said: "The police have not found the accused woman, so there's nothing to say for sure. We have just heard from one side. If we find the woman and find that she has been committing fraud, she will be punished."
Ca Mau market managers have been sent out to inspect crab trading activities across the province, and farmers have been advised to do business only with Vietnamese people.
Investigations showed that the Chinese had come as tourists before they hired houses in the province rural areas and started ordering crabs.
The actual number of farmers and dealers is not known, but police say there are victims who have not reported their experiences for various reasons.
Several farmers complained about another Chinese dealer named Wang Yan Shi.
"This morning I called him asking for the money, but he said he could not pay me, then hung up," Nguyen Hoang Vu, who had delivered nearly VND500 million worth of crabs to the Chinese man, said on May 10.
The Chinese first came with high offers and paid properly to win their trust before abusing it, the victims said.
When the debt with one farmer started to pile up, they would switch to another farmer.
"Some farmers even built extra rooms in their houses to let the Chinese dealers stay, only to be cheated of the rent as well," Vu said.
He said the "unpaid debt trick" has been going on for two years now.
Yet local officials said they only "heard" about the situation now.
Many worried farmers did not know who to complain to as they did not really know the dealers or their real names.
The business was mostly done on the phone, not based on written contracts.
In the neighboring province of Bac Lieu, agricultural authorities said Chinese dealers are now collecting small prawns.
They are putting seafood producers in Mekong Delta region in severe shortage of material, and yet farmers are not really making big profits.
Thach Kim Binh, a seafood quality management official in the province, said Chinese dealers typically offered very high prices, but once they were able to manipulate the supply, they would press the prices down or use different tricks to avoid payment.
Similar anxieties are plaguing farmers in the delta's Vinh Long Province as they are not getting their money after supplying potatoes to Chinese dealers.
One of the farmers, only identified as Q., said he is owed nearly VND1 billion, and other farmers in the province are owed at least VND5 billion.
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