|A macadamia tree in Loc Nam Commune, Lam Dong Province. Macadamia cultivation is expected to bring significant benefits for farmers in the Central Highlands region. — Photo Courtersy baoloc.org
LAM DONG (VNS) — Macadamia cultivation is expected to reap considerable benefits for farmers in the Central Highlands region, where the traditional cultivation of coffee and rubber have started reflecting a development limitation.
That expectations of both farmers and authorities about the potential of macadamia cultivation cannot be ignored.
Macadamia was introduced in Viet Nam for trial cultivation in 2002. Local scientists had tested and found that the north-western and Central Highlands regions offer conditions best suited for the plant.
The potential of macadamia growth also comes from its inherent value. The macadamia nut is dubbed as the "the Queen of Nuts" for its outstanding nutritional value. Experts pointed out that compared with other common edible seeds, such as almond and cashew, macadamia is high in fat and low in protein. It also has the highest amount of mono-unsaturated fats among any known seed.
While it took a century for the cultivation of coffee and rubber to achieve an export turnover of US$1 billion, it is estimated that it will take only about one to two decades for the cultivation of macadamia to reach that target.
With the current price of macadamia nuts pegged at around $15 per kilogram, farmers in Viet Nam could earn between $2,000 and $3,000 per hectare.
Also, history has proved that given the capacity and hard-working characteristics of Vietnamese farmers, they have achieved great success on their farms. These farmers have helped bring the rice and coffee sectors of Viet Nam to the global map and there is no reason why they should not be able to make Viet Nam a key macadamia exporter in the region and the world.
At a recent seminar on the development of macadamia cultivation, the Head of the Central Highlands Steering Committee, General Tran Dai Quang said given the scientific findings and experimental results, as well as domestic and global demand for macadamia nuts, it had been agreed upon that macadamia should be chosen as the new strategic industrial tree that would help boost socio-economic development in the Central Highlands region.
Macadamia has a life-span of between 40 and 60 years and a decade-long experiment has found that the Central Highlands and north-western region has conditions best suited for the plant's growth.
Macadamia trees also hold a great advantage because they can be planted along with coffee and tea plants or planted alone in an industrial forest.
A number of cultivation models in which macadamia trees were combined with coffee plants brought in much higher returns for farmers in comparison with the sole cultivation of coffee, because macadamia can withstand drought conditions, requires less cultivation efforts, and is usually not affected by pestilent insects.
The Lien Viet Post Joint Stock Commercial Bank (LienVietPostBank) has agreed to lend farmers around VND22 trillion (US1.02 million) for planting macadamia on 200,000ha.
This is the first project aimed at large-scale cultivation of the macadamia nut in Viet Nam. It is aimed at turning the plant into a key industrial plant for the Central Highlands region, which can also provide a stable source of income for the farmers and turn the region into the "macadamia kingdom" of Southeast Asia.
Nguyen Duc Huong, Vice President of LienVietPostBank, said he had found that macadamia nuts were used widely in other countries and had met many businessmen from the fields of confectionary, pharmaceuticals and cosmetics, who are looking to use macadamia in their products. Meanwhile, domestic supply remains limited and the businesses were still dependent on imported macadamia nuts.
Moreover, land and natural conditions in Viet Nam were suitable for the cultivation of this plant, he said.
The aim of the project was also to create jobs and bring in better economic proficiency for farmers, who were close customers of the bank, he said, adding that when farmers worked effectively, the bank's lending activities would also work efficiently.
"We initially planned to invest around VND10 trillion ($476 million) in the project and then decided to double the figure, based on our survey and assessment of the tree's potential," Huong said.
"We did not see this (project) as making a bet or taking a risk, we see it as an opportunity that one needed to take," he said.
The cultivation of macadamia has such great potential, but so much still needs to be done to help it become a long-term and sustainable source of income for farmers.
Experts said it was necessary to have policies that resolve the land issues faced by farmers, as well as those that help meet their capital demand.
The Government has also issued a decree, where projects that involve the cultivation of macadamia trees over an area of 50 ha and above will receive financial assistance worth VND15 million ($714).
The banking sector is also playing a vital role in providing farmers with credit products for the development of this tree. Around 300 to 400 trees on each hectare and each seedling costs around VND80,000, so credit will be a necessary source of support for farmers looking to plant macadamia.
It is also essential to encourage businesses to become pioneers in the sector, from studying seedlings and processing technology to seeking sustainable markets to help form a closed-circuit production process for farmers.
Viet Nam currently has about 2,000 ha under macadamia cultivation, with an average output of three tonnes per hectare. — VNS