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How a US-made sugarcane harvester has changed working practices in Vietnam province

As a vast sugarcane planting region for decades, Ia Pa District of the Central Highlands province of Gia Lai has seen its first sugarcane harvester in recent times.

As a vast sugarcane planting region for decades, Ia Pa District of the Central Highlands province of Gia Lai has seen its first sugarcane harvester in recent times.
As a vast sugarcane planting region for decades, Ia Pa District of the Central Highlands province of Gia Lai has seen its first sugarcane harvester in recent times.

The sugarcane-cutting machine was imported from the U.S. at a price of VND12 billion (US$558,000).

The piece of equipment has helped free hundreds of workers from hard daily labor during the last four months.

The owner of this ‘milestone’ machine is Tran Dinh Manh, a sugarcane farmer in Chu Drang Commune in Ia Pa.

He has become a ‘Very Important Person’ of the area in the sugarcane harvest season because his machine is the only one there.

Before, owners of labor-intensive sugarcane fields had to hire numerous employees to manually harvest the plant while the manpower has become rarer because of the mushrooming of industrial parks in the surrounding areas that attract more and more workers.

During a trip to sugarcane fields in southern Tay Ninh Province in 2013, Manh was impressed by a sugarcane harvester there and was determined to own a similar machine.

Tran Dinh Manh stands next to his sugarcane cutting machine.

Thanks to the guarantee from the Ayun Pa sugar plant in his locality, Manh put all of his assets such as land, houses, and motorbikes as collateral to have enough money to bring home a high-capacity sugarcane harvester from the U.S.

Manh said that he has never had a free day since importing the machine late last year, as he is continually contracted to cut sugarcane for other plantation owners at VND200,000 ($9) per metric ton.

“The machine can harvest 300-500 metric tons of sugarcane a day, so I believe that it takes me five years to recoup my investment,” Manh said.

A sugarcane season lasts five months and the harvester is certainly ‘a star machine’ during harvest days, he added.

Manh recalled that when the piece of machinery was taken to his sugarcane farm late last year, thousands of local farmers and engineers came to see it from nearby sugar factories.

“This machine has driven local farmers to change their working methods, realizing that the civilized world has changed so much,” Manh said.

An official of the Ayun Pa sugar factory in Gia Lai admitted that his facility has benefited greatly from the machine because sugarcane is harvested timely and therefore the risk of losing sugar content to the scorching sunlight has been significantly reduced.