In Krông Á Commune in the Central Highlands province, the cultivation of lemongrass has helped many farmers escape poverty.
Coffee, pepper and sugarcane are affected by climate change and have low prices.
The Krông Á Commune Farmers Association has instructed farmers in techniques to grow lemongrass to produce essential oil.
Nguyễn Văn Tuân is one of the commune’s farmers who have switched to lemongrass under the instructions of the association. Previously he grew cassava and sugarcane but the profit was not high because of low prices.
He now has 5 – 6 harvests of lemongrass a year and earns VNĐ15 million (US$650) from each harvest.
“Lemongrass cultivation provides a new livelihood, helping farmers escape poverty,” he said.
The plant is suitable for the commune's poor soil and mountainous terrain and requires a low investment.
Besides lemongrass, farmers in the commune have also co-operated with lemongrass essential oil producers to guarantee outlets.
One tonne of lemongrass leaves can produce 1.8-2 litres of lemongrass essential oil which is sold at a price of VNĐ1 million ($43) per litre, according to producers.
Lemongrass essential oil is in high demand for its medicinal elements in treating some illnesses like colds. It can help get rid of mosquitoes.
Đào Thị Thi, chairwoman of the Krông Á Commune Farmers Association who is also a lemongrass oil producer, said because of the high demand of lemongrass essential oil, many farmers in the commune have switched to lemongrass.
She spent VNĐ200 million ($8,600) to invest in facilities for producing lemongrass essential oil in 2018.
Besides co-operating with farmers to grow lemongrass, she has also sought more outlets for lemongrass essential oil to develop cultivation in the commune, she said.
Lemongrass cultivation has helped many farmers have stable lives and the model of co-operating between farmers and lemongrass essential oil producers should be expanded to develop lemongrass cultivation sustainably, she said.
Nguyễn Thế Lập, head of M’Đrắk District's Bureau of Agriculture and Rural Development, said lemongrass was planted in the district’s many communes like Krông Á, Ea Lai, Ea Pil and Ea Riêng.
The cultivation of lemongrass has offered high profits than other crops like cassava and sugarcane, he said.
The district has several co-operative groups and co-operatives which specialise in growing lemongrass, producing lemongrass essential oil and selling the oil to the north region, he said.
The district has encouraged farmers to co-operate with lemongrass essential oil producers to develop cultivation of the plant. It has instructed farmers to follow proper farming techniques, including replanting old lemongrass, to ensure the yield and quality of lemongrass.