CUU LONG DELTA — With thick-skinned oranges fetching higher and higher prices, many farmers in the Cuu Long (Mekong) Delta have switched to growing the fruit, and worried authorities are warning that a possible glut will deflate prices.
|A farmer harvests oranges in the southern province of Dong Thap. Many farmers in the Cuu Long Delta have switched to growing the fruit. — VNA/VNS Photo Thanh Vu
Nguyen Van Hong, a farmer in Vinh Long Province's Tra On District, said he earned a profit of VND200 million (US$9,500) from his one-ha orchard which yielded 18 tonnes of thick-skinned oranges in the last crop.
Because of the high profits from the fruit, he is now planting more than 4,000 new trees.
Le Van Mot, a neighbour, is turning his paddy field into an orchard.
He said: "I grew rice for dozens of years but could not become wealthy. My brothers switched to growing thick-skinned oranges a few years ago and have all become prosperous."
Farmers in Tra On have turned nearly 100ha of paddy fields into orchards, according to the district Agriculture and Rural Development Bureau.
Phan Nhut Ai, director of the Vinh Long Department of Agriculture and Rural Development, said the area under the fruit has increased rapidly in Thuan Thoi commune.
But he assured that his department was carefully monitoring it and would put a stop if the total area exceeded zoning plans.
It has also warned that farmers should not indiscriminately expand cultivation because of the risk of oversupply, he said.
While the prices of most fruits and other agricultural produce have fallen this year, thick-skinned oranges have been among the exceptions. In Hau Giang, Vinh Long, and Dong Thap provinces, traders buy it at VND23,000-25,000 per kilo-gramme.
In Hau Giang's Chau Thanh District, many orchards yield 30-40 tonnes per ha, bringing a profit of VND500-600 million to owners.
Nguyen Van Dong, director of the Hau Giang Department of Agriculture and Rural Development, said the province, wary of oversupply, does not encourage expansion of the area under the orange.
Hau Giang, one of the delta's main thick-skinned orange growing areas, now has 7,000ha under the fruit.
It has encouraged enterprises and farmers to ensure stability, invest in improving productivity and quality, and create brand names for thick-skinned oranges, Dong said.
Nguyen Minh Chau, head of the Southern Fruit Research Institute, said demand was assured if farmers ensured their trees bear fruits in time.
"The thick-skinned orange is delicious and used to make juice, so there is constant demand for it," he said.
The main market is in the country's north.
Chau said delta provinces need to co-operate to ensure the fruit fetches their farmers high returns.
"Each province has to harvest at a designated time that does not overlap with each other to ensure supply is steady and prices do not collapse because of a glut," he said.
In the southern region, thick-skinned oranges grow throughout the year.
"If authorities do not co-ordinate and guide farmers and leave them to their own designs, they are most likely to harvest the fruit at the same time, causing an oversupply," he warned. — VNS