In 30 years, Vietnam has gone from producing less than one percent of the world’s coffee to producing 20 percent today. The country is now the world’s second largest coffee exporter, behind Brazil, and employs about 2.6 million people in the coffee-growing industry. With coffee now grown on half a million smallholder farms, the country attributes a large part of its dramatic reduction in poverty – from more than 60 percent in 1994 to less than 10 percent today – to the coffee boon.
Nguyen Hong Ky, a coffee farmer for nearly two decades, says there are a number of major threats to his coffee plants, including the fungus coffee rust, root nematodes and the coffee borer beetle. Since he started using crop protection products, however, he has reduced the impact of pests and doubled his yield.
“There are many difficulties in farming, but the key is to protect the crop from pests and diseases. Coffee is our living so a good crop is vital to our livelihoods,” he says.
Nguyen Xuan Hoa, a plant scientist working on crop protection products for coffee, has a personal interest in helping farmers protect their crops.
“I drink coffee everyday – it really makes my mind fresh,” he says. In particular, he is researching improved protection from nematodes, which attack and destroy the plant’s root system, and provides advice to farmers on how to mitigate risks.
“First, farmers must remove infected plants. Then, they plant a new crop and must ensure that they apply pesticides to control any new nematode outbreak. Then, we get our coffee,” he adds.