TIEN GIANG — Farmers in Tien Giang Province's Tan Phuoc District in the Mekong Delta have escaped poverty and become prosperous from planting pineapples.
Nearly 20 years ago, the district, which is located in the Dong Thap Muoi (Plain of Reeds) in the (Cuu Long) Mekong Delta, was full of wild plants and the soil was heavily contaminated by aluminium.
Tan Phuoc has the largest area under pineapple in the Delta, about 11,230ha.
Phung Hong Thanh, deputy director of Tan Lap Farm, said pineapple was first planted in Tan Phuoc in 1979 from seedlings bought from Go Quao, one of the major pineapple-planting districts in Kien Giang Province.
Go Quao District's soil conditions are similar to that of Tan Phuoc, according to Thanh.
When the planted pineapple seedlings bore the first fruit, the fruits had a delicious taste and flavour like Go Quao pineapple.
With initial success, the farm decided to expand pineapple cultivation in 1980, but until the 1996-2000 period, when the soil preparation for cultivation was done by agricultural machines, the area under pineapple was expanded to 3,200ha.
After this period, pineapple cultivation in Tan Phuoc began to grow.
Ngo Van Bien in Tan Phuoc's Tan Lap 2 Commune is one many farmers who have earned a high income from pineapple.
In 1990, Bien's family in Tien Giang's Chau Thanh District moved to Tan Phuoc's Tan Lap 2 Commune to work in the province's programme to reclaim the Plain of Reeds.
In the first few years, Bien and his wife planted cassave and then sugarcane, but all of these crops failed because the soil was heavily contaminated by alum.
"In 1996, I decided to plant pineapple, and I succeeded," Bien said, adding that his family was healthy and his children had received an education.
Bien now earns more than VND1 billion (US$47,000) a year from planting pineapple.
In Tan Thanh, one of Tan Phuoc's poor communes, most farmers have become prosperous from planting pineapple.
Nguyen Van Dung, chairman of the Tan Thanh People's Committee, said pineapple now accounts for 1,690ha of the commune's more than 1,700ha of agricultural land.
With an average yield of nearly 20 tonnes per hectare, farmers earn a profit of VND40-50 million a year, he said. The number of poor households in Tan Phuoc has fallen to 13.4 per cent from 29.23 per cent in 2006, according to district figures.
Nguyen Thanh Quy, deputy chairman of the Tan Phuoc People's Committee, said cultivation of the Tan Phuoc pineapple and six other fruits would expand.
The authorities of Tien Giang and Tan Phuoc have continued to invest in dyke systems and power grids for pumping water to protect pineapple in the flooding season over the past years.
The district has also co-operated with research instituts and vocational schools to provide advanced farming techniques to improve yield and quality of pineapple.
However, the district is facing a shortage of capital to upgrade dyke systems, and to build roads to transport materials. — VNS