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Vietnam exporting sliced cassava mixed with sand?   2010-08-06 - VnExpress

In order to sell sliced cassava at good prices, farmers in Quang Ngai province are mixing cassava with sand.


According to the farmers in Tinh Ha Commune in Son Tinh District, after harvesting cassava, they cut cassava into slices, dry them under the sun, mix the cassava slices with sand, and then put them into bags. The bags of cassava and sand will be sold to intermediate merchants who then carry them to Quy Nhon port in Binh Dinh province, from which the bags are exported to foreign countries.


Vo Khoi, a farmer in Tinh Ha Commune, was carrying cassava into the drying ground.  “Previously, we only sold dried cassava, we never sold cassava mixed with sand like this,” Khoi said.


Meanwhile, Ho Thi Hue, a merchant, who collects cassava from farmers, said: “Everyday, we purchase three trucks of sand, or about 45 tons of sand, to mix with six tons of sliced cassava”.


There are some 10 agents that collect cassava mixed with sand.  The agents follow a trail that goes along the Tra river in Tu Nghia and Son Tinh districts. Every day, an agent needs three trucks of sand (15 ton per truck) on average. This means that every day, 400 tons of sand are mixed with cassava that will soon be exported.


Vo Thi Thu Ha, the owner of the agent that collects cassava in Son Tinh explained: “I have been told to mix sand with the cassava that is supposed to be exported”.


“They will not purchase 100 percent pure dried cassava, because they only purchase mixed products. I cannot understand why, but I keep doing business with them because I can make a profit,” she said.


According to small merchants, every kilogram of dried cassava can be exported to China at 3700 dong per kilo if the products are carried by land. If the product is carried by sea, the export price is 3500 dong per kilo.


“When I sell cassava mixed with sand, the profits are much higher than exporting cassava with no sand.”

However, Government officials do not think this way. Deputy Director of the Quang Ngai province’s Customs Agency Le Van Quang said that in fact, exporters have “dodged the laws” in order to export sand.

Since June 30, Vietnam has prohibited the exportation of sand. Therefore, exporters have since been trying to mix sand with cassava to export. They declare to customs agents that they are exporting farm produce since farm produce exports have no export tariff.  It is sand which people want to export, but they have to mix it with cassava


Prior to the sand export ban being imposed, sand export taxes were 17 percent.


Nguyen Minh Thanh, Head of the Customs Agency at Quy Nhon port also thinks that if importers really want to purchase cassava, they will refuse the consignments of cassava mixed with sand, because sand will make the weight of the consignments heavier.

Do Meo, Chairman of Tinh Ha Commune’s People’s Committee, said he has not heard reports about the mixing of cassava and sand. He said he will order his staff to investigate the situation.

Meanwhile, Deputy Chairman of Tinh An Tay Commune’s People’s Committee Nguyen Ngoc Thanh admitted that many farmers mix dried cassava with sand. “However, we don’t know what to do with farmers,” he said.


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