CAN THO – Scenes of boats lining up to buy diesel oil and combine harvester owners delivering oil to the farmers are common in the Mekong Delta due to a fuel shortage during the rice harvest season.
Some 90% of fuel agents along the Hau River, from Can Tho City to An Giang Province, have stopped selling fuel, while state-run fuel stations are selling just a limited amount, Nguyen Van Vang, a rice merchant of the southern district of Cho Moi, An Giang, told The Saigon Times.
“Each boat can buy just a few hundreds of Vietnamese dong worth of oil, which makes up only 10% of the fuel needed for a rice shipment,” he added.
For every 10 petrol stations along Can Tho City to the provinces of An Giang, Kien Giang and Dong Thap, nine of them are shut, said Le Thanh Duy, another rice merchant in Cho Moi District.
“The remainder is selling only some 20 liters of oil to each buyer, or VND1 million worth of oil at best,” Duy said.
According to him, a boat needs nearly 200 liters of oil to transport rice from Long Xuyen City, An Giang, to the nearby localities.
“Sometimes I have to buy 20 liters, then wait for a few hours and return to buy another 20 liters, and again, until I have enough for the trip,” Duy said.
It is tough to find a rice shipper, Vang said, adding that freight charges have risen 10% as boat drivers have to refuel several times.
Meanwhile, some petrol stations in Long An Province sold as much oil as needed to regulars, but only 20 liters to others, said Mai Van Huu, a combine harvester owner who resides in Long An.
“I have worked in rice harvesting for a long time and been a patron of some gas stations, so I can buy oil worth VND2 million or VND3 million from them,” Huu said.
Meanwhile, some others went to two or three petrol stations but could not find any oil, Huu added.
However, he could not buy as much in other provinces. “I wanted to buy some VND2 million worth of oil but got some worth VND300,000, so I had to buy oil in Long An and transport it to other provinces when reaping rice in other localities,” Huu said.
The rice was ripe but it was hard to harvest, as harvesters required oil.
According to Tran Van Hoang, a rice farmer in Tien Giang, his rice field should have been reaped on August 28, but he could not do so as there was not enough oil for harvesters.
“The rice field was ripe, but a part of it has been damaged due to the monsoon,” Hoang said, adding that if the situation persists, the crop yield and quality will decline.