Vietnam farmers lose over $4.78 mln to Chinese manipulators

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A woman arranges her chilies in southern Vietnam. Chinese dealers have been manipulating the supplies of such produces in the region, causing big losses to farmers.

Chinese produce dealers have caused at least VND100 billion (US$US$4.78 million) in losses to Mekong Delta farmers after buying on credit and disappearing, officials say.

Figures released from the Mekong Delta on Thursday showed that the foreign dealers have put their local counterparts and Vietnamese farmers at a disadvantage by offering high prices to manipulate the supplies of seafood, sweet potatoes, coconuts, pineapples and other produce in Ca Mau, Vinh Long, Tien Giang and Ben Tre Provinces.

Though Vietnamese regulations do not allow foreigners to buy directly from local farmers, planters in the delta said Chinese have been doing business in the area for years.

Locals said the Chinese trick the farmers by initially gaining their trust with several high payments, before eventually turning to buying on credit and disappearing.

The transactions were done verbally, sometimes on the phone, thus farmers do not know the real names, even the faces, of their buyers.

Vo Van Quyen, head of the domestic market department at the Ministry of Public Security, said no Chinese dealers have registered with the ministry to buy from local suppliers, but many have been doing so after first coming to the area as tourists.

In Ben Tre, around one quarter of coconuts, the province's most famous product, are bought to China every year, Quyen said, citing official figures.

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Around 80-90 percent of coconut products, such as coconut jelly and coal from coconut husks, are bought by Chinese.

Nguyen Van Dac, a Ben Tre official, said Chinese dealers pay small commissions to local businesses who register to collect their purchases.

Quyen suggests a better control of Chinese's coming and staying to limit their such involvement in local farmers' businesses, and that each province needs to set up a hotline which farmers can call any time they are approached by Chinese dealers.

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