Online portal boosts coffee farmers’ knowledge

Thanks to a free Internet website launched by a local farmer earlier this year, coffee growers nationwide no longer have to pay to get crucial information on coffee market prices.

Online portal boosts coffee farmers’ knowledge

The website, created by 23-year-old farmer Nguyen Cong Thinh from Lam Dong Province in the Central Highlands, aims to update coffee growers on the latest coffee prices as well as provide them with a variety of useful information, from cultivation techniques to tips on harvesting and trading the product.

With up to 3,000 visits daily, mostly by Central Highlands farmers, the online information channel has served as a handy tool for coffee farmers to improve harvests and avoid being undercut by traders.

“During last year’s harvest season, I was really upset to learn farmers in Di Linh and Bao Loc districts in Lam Dong Province had to pay millions of dong to buy information from some coffee traders,” said Thinh, who also serves as the website administrator. “I couldn’t just stand and watch hardworking farmers pay such unreasonable costs.”

He initially launched a coffee blog on January 1, before setting up a website three months later.

In the early days of its founding, Thinh said he had to work alone day and night to search for proper information on the world’s coffee market before writing reports to analyze and forecast the global and local market.

“Luckily, I was later supported by economics students, individuals working in import and export sectors as well as coffee experts,” he said. “We also formed an association for y5cafe’s members, where we can exchange valuable experiences in cultivating and trading coffee.”

Thinh said updated information was necessary for modern farmers because the coffee market is a sensitive one.

“Coffee prices are supposed to experience drastic changes. Recently, some farmers from Quang Tri Province phoned me to check the updated price, which was between VND5,000-6,000 (US$0.30-0.36) per kilogram. They said they were offered less than half of that range.

It’s not easy for the farmers to have a good harvest and they should be paid adequately,” he said.

Simple layout

Thinh said he has to try his best to make the website easy to understand from layout to content.

“The site is supposed to relate to farmers’ knowledge rather than sophisticated computer technology,” he said. “I had to make everything simple, for example, putting coffee prices immediately on the front.”

From simplified price charts with market analyses to tips on planting and harvesting, the website offers comprehensive information related to the crop.

The site administrator also offers additional support to visitors via telephone, email and online chat.

With backing from friends, the website has become a familiar tool for a number of local farmers, who have in turn helped to promote it.

“I might have closed the website without strong support from other farmers,” Thinh said. “I didn’t intend to build the page for profit, I just wanted to help local farmers.”

The founder said a farmer from Dak Lak Province had printed a banner promoting the website and hung it in front of his house to introduce it to others.

Many internet shops in Central Highlands provinces have also set as their computers’ homepage.

“Several times, farmers have phoned to thank me for launching the useful website,” he said. “Many farmers ask their children to access information from the page and relay it to them because they didn’t know how to use computers.”

Thinh said he and his friends would maintain the website to serve its initial purpose, which is to facilitate the highest profits for coffee farmers by providing them with updated information and limiting intermediary traders.

In the future, the site may be developed into an online marketplace to promote coffee products from local farmers.

“Farmers could save a few hundred Vietnamese dong per kilogram by skipping an intermediary step,” he said.

Reported by Truong Son

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