HCM CITY (VNS)— Many farmers in the Cuu Long (Mekong) Delta have switched from rice and other crops to cultivating dragon fruit, prompting warnings from local authorities of a market glut and unsustainable expansion.
The farmers have been attracted by the high profits that dragon fruit currently offers, especially with cultivation using lamps in the night to stimulate off season flowering.
This can bring in VND400-500 million (US$19,000-23,800) per hectare a year, much higher than rice and other fruit, according to Long An Province's Department of Agriculture and Rural Development.
The area under dragon fruit cultivation in Long An has already reached 2,200ha, exceeding the area targeted for 2015, department officials said.
Nguyen Van A, who has a 0.5ha dragon fruit garden in Long An's Chau Thanh District, said the method of having the cacti flower during the off-season has boosted his household's income.
A said he earns profits of about VND100 million ($4,700) a year from his garden. He switched from rice to dragon fruit cultivation after he saw other farmers in the district do well.
In Cho Gao District, which is the major dragon fruit producer in the delta's Tien Giang Province, the area under the fruit cultivation has increased to 3,500ha from just 1,800ha three years ago.
Farmers in other provinces like Tra Vinh and Vinh Long have also cut down other trees to plant dragon fruit, local officials say.
They caution that with the areas exceeding zoning plans made by local authorities, farmers could face a shortage of irrigation water as well as electricity for lighting used to stimulate off-season flowering.
They warn further that about 80 per cent of dragon fruit produced is exported to China, a notoriously unstable market.
The quantity of dragon fruit exported to the US, Japan and EU is still small, so farmers should not expand dragon fruit cultivation and focus instead on improving the quality of existing orchards, officials advise. They also say that farmers should adopt Vietnamese and Global Good Agricultural Practice (GAP) norms to enable exports to stable overseas markets.
Dragon fruit has recorded the highest export growth among Vietnamese fruit in recent years, according to the Southern Fruit Research Institute. — VNS