Farmers strike over planned golf courses, industrial parks

TIEN GIANG — Residents in Tan Phuoc District in the Cuu Long (Mekong) Delta province of Tien Giang have refused to farm in protest against the local authority’s proposal to earmark land for golf course and industrial park development.

Residents in Tan Lap 1 Commune’s hamlets 1 and 5 have complained that the province had already taken away farmland to build the 540-ha Long Giang Industrial Park in 2008, which remains fallow.

In 2007, the Tien Giang Industrial Park Management Board granted an investment certificate to Long Giang Industrial Park Development Co Ltd to develop the Long Giang IP in Tan Lap 1 Commune at a total cost of US$100 million.

But the land within the IP compound is overgrown with weeds, although construction began in 2008, forcing the relocation of 395 farming households.

Nguyen Hong Thanh (not his real name), one of the farmers whose land was retrieved, said he had once grown pineapple on the land, which yielded an average of 25-30 tonnes of fruit per ha.

With a price of VND2,000 ($0.1) a kilo, he could have earned VND50-60 million ($2,500-3,000) a ha, with a profit of VND30-35 million, excluding costs.

Those profits from pineapple cultivation would be nearly double the amount from growing rice, he added.

He said that fertile land on the IP site had been taken, and was then left unsused.

A local official said on condition of anonymity that the provincial government had leased 540ha of land for 50 years to a Chinese firm to develop the Long Giang Industrial Park.

Given that the area is remote and isolated, the Chinese investor did not have to pay land rental fees but only compensation fees to local residents.

The compensation costs to the local farmers totalled about VND123 billion ($6.15 million), much less than the economic value which farmers could have earned by pineapple cultivation over 50 years, about VND1.35 trillion ($67.5 million), he said.

The official also questioned how the land would be used if the Chinese company’s contract was not extended beyond its 50-year term.

Angry residents

Many local residents in Tan Lap 1 Commune have protested the provincial government’s decision to take away farmland for IPs or other purposes, such as a resort complex.

Sixteen households that were asked to move for the Long Giang IP have refused to receive compensation money and several others said the compensation rate was unsatisfactory.

Despite these complaints about the Long Giang IP, local authorities have proposed building a golf course and another industrial park. This would require taking away 270ha of farmland from Hamlet 1 and 300ha of farmland in Hamlet 5.

Many farmers have stopped planting as a form of protest, which could lead to significant losses for them.

Cao Minh Tam, deputy head of Tien Giang Province’s People’s Committee office, said that the province planned to develop the 270-ha area in Hamlet 1 into a multi-functional resort complex, including a 36-hole golf course, and recreational, restaurant and hotel areas.

Detailed planning for the resort complex has been completed and the project is awaiting approval from the provincial People’s Committee for resident compensation and resettlement methods.

He said the local government had already made clear that residents could continue farming until a decision to take away the land for the resort complex was issued.

But he said he could not understand why many farmers had decided not to plant crops on their plots of land.

Explaining his decision to postpone planting, farmer Xuan, who wanted to give his first name only, said that it was costly to grow pineapple. He would have to spend VND30 million ($1,500) to grow a ha of pineapple, including hiring machines to dig ditches and buying bamboo screens.

Xuan said he also did not know when the State or province would take the land for the proposed resort. It could possibly be taken away halfway through the cultivation period, thus creating losses for farmers.

People would have to abandon their fields, he said, adding that many people who wanted to replant pineapple cannot do it since the large state farm where many farmers had plots had disconnected the water supply.

The water supply was cut because many farmers, who have delayed planting, had not paid their individual water-pumping fees. — VNS

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