Rubber cultivation has helped many families, especially from ethnic minorities, in the central province of Binh Thuan escape poverty, according to the province's Department of Agriculture and Rural Development.

The province now has nearly 35,000ha of land under rubber, mostly in Tanh Linh, Duc Linh, Ham Thuan Bac, Ham Thuan Nam , and Ham Tan districts.

In Tanh Linh and Duc Linh, which have the largest rubber areas, farmers earn a profit of 40-45 million VND (1,900 – 2,100 USD) per ha annually.

In Ham Thuan Bac's mountainous La Da and Dong Giang communes, 250ha out of the 570ha of rubber trees yield latex.

With local authorities assisting by providing new strains and cultivation and harvesting techniques, many ethnic minority farmers in the two communes have escaped poverty.

K'Van Thinh, a K'Ho ethnic farmer in Dong Giang, earns 70-80 million VND annually from his 2ha rubber plantation. This is much higher than income from other crops, he said.

Many others earn dozens of millions of dong.

The period between planting the rubber trees and harvesting latex is six to seven years, so many farmers also plant other crops such as corn in their plantations to earn additional incomes of 5-10 million VND per ha per crop.

Besides, this also helps keep the land fertile and moist and prevent soil erosion.

In recent years the area under rubber in Binh Thuan has increased by an average of 4,000ha a year.

The province has 13 latex processors with a total annual capacity of 30,000 tonnes. Their exports have skyrocketed from 318 tonnes in 2005 to 3,500 tonnes last year.

Under a programme to develop rubber farming in ethnic minority areas that wraps up this year, households planting the crop are provided loans, free farming courses, and 50 percent subsidies for buying rubber saplings.

The province hopes the programme will add a further 1,282ha of rubber.-VNA