LONG AN – While many farmers have failed to find suitable uses for saline soils in the southern province of Long An and opted to walk off their land, Nguyen Hoang Huy, of Duc Hoa District, has perservered and succeeded. His solution: oil palm trees.
Huy's 3.5ha farm with 3,000 palms brings in VND500 million (US$24,000) a year, not from oil, but from their sale as ornamentals. Yet success did not come easy to the 42-year-old. A flood in 1996 destroyed his newly developed farm of vegetables, fish farming and animals and another flood in 2000 swept away his new orchard.
While Huy was trying to think of a crop that would survive in the salty soil, floods and harsh weather he came across someone who was planting palm seedlings from Malaysia.
His interest peaked, Huy asked for some of the seedlings to try out on his farm. Soon he added more to create a small plantation. Huy found that palm trees were suitable to different kinds of soils and, because most of them grew in tropical areas, they could stand poor drainage and regular flooding.
Huy said he scattered the seeds of the palms on to coconut fibre or rice husks and covered them with a layer of coconut fibre to encourage sprouting. When the seedlings were three-months old he transplanted them on his land.
His palm trees grew straight, with unbranched stems and large evergreen leaves. They produced a large number of tiny white star-shaped flowers in bunches.
Huy said their easy-going growth habit and pleasant appearance made the trees a popular ornamental in his region. He began selling his trees to decorate industrial zones, hotels and resorts in Long An and neighbouring provinces.
Prices paid were around VND1.5-5million ($74-$240) each for trees about 1-1.3m tall.
Huy's farming prowess has earned him the province's title, Distinguished Farmer. – VNS