Updated  
February, 20 2012 10:11:26

Coconut growers switch crops

A farmer in the Cuu Long (Mekong) Delta province of Ben Tre classifies coconuts for export. Coconut farmers are facing difficulties due to falling prices. — VNA/VNS Photo Dinh Hue
CUU LONG (MEKONG) DELTA — Coconut farmers in the Cuu Long (Mekong) Delta, especially in Ben Tre Province, are facing difficulties because the price of coconuts has declined sharply over the past four months.

In Ben Tre Province, the country's largest coconut producer, the price of dry coconuts fell from VND140,000-150,000 per dozen last October to VND34,000-40,000.

Farmer Vo Thi Hai in Giong Trom District's Phuoc Long Commune said the crop was the major source of income for most farmers.

Hai had tried to sell coconuts for VND38,000 per dozen, but she could not find a trader.

The country's coconut king, Vo Thanh Thuong of Giong Trom District, said that he wanted to sell 1,000 coconuts and his trader offered VND36,000 per dozen.

"But immediately after that the trader refused to buy my coconuts because he was afraid of further price declines," he said.

Domestic dried coconut-flesh processors said they must cut the price because of falling global prices.

Sales in the EU, North African and Middle Eastern markets, which are Viet Nam's major markets for dried coconut flesh, have been declining because of economic problems in those areas.

Because of the decline, the export price of dried coconut flesh has fallen from US$2,900 per tonne to $1,300-1,500.

Chinese traders in Ben Tre Province have also been buying the coconuts at lower prices.

Previously, there were about five to six Chinese ships docked at the Ham Luong River in Giong Trom District to buy dry coconuts, but the number is now only three to four ships.

Ho Vinh Sang, chairman of the Ben Tre Province Coconut Association, said Chinese traders bought about 35 per cent of the province's total dry coconuts.

With price drops of more than 70 per cent, 40,000 farming families have been hit hard.

Many coconut orchards have switched to selling fresh coconuts, which has caused an oversupply and lower prices.

Because of the price drop, many farmers in Ben Tre are planning to cut down their orchards to prepare to plant another crop.

Coconut farmers who live along the Ham Luong River have leased their orchards to enterprises to raise tra fish.

In Binh Dai District, many coconut farmers have also cut down their trees to dig ponds to farm shrimp.

Ben Tre has about 52,500ha devoted to coconuts, with annual output of 424 million. Ten to 15 per cent of that figure represents fresh coconuts, and the rest are dry coconuts.

The province has 70 enterprises and 1,400 family-based production units that produce coconut products, providing jobs for 50,000 people.

Ben Tre exports coconuts and coconut products to 80 countries and territories. — VNS

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