|Viet Nam started planting macadamia nuts about 10 years ago and is currently growing about 2,000 ha, with an average output of three tonnes per hectare. — Photo nguoiduatin
HA NOI (VNS)— The Government has urged farmers to produce more macadamia nuts, but scientists say more research is needed before they could be cultivated successfully en masse.
Viet Nam started planting macadamia nuts about 10 years ago and is currently growing about 2,000 ha, with an average output of three tonnes per hectare.
With the current price of macadamia nuts pegged at around $15 per kilogram, farmers in Viet Nam should earn $2,000 to $3,000 per hectare. To harness the nut's potential, the country expects to cultivate 200,000ha in the Central Highlands and 30,000ha in the Northwest by 2025.
There are doubts, though, about whether the country should expand the cultivation to such an extent.
Tran Vinh, deputy head of the Central Highlands Agriculture and Forestry Institute, has spent many years researching macadamia nuts and said there were still many unanswered questions.
"There is very little research on macadamia trees in Viet Nam," he said. His institute has researched the topic, but more needs to be done at the ministry level to confirm that the macadamia cultivation programme is feasible.
"It is necessary to conduct thorough surveys on variety creation, cultivation techniques and many other things," he said, adding that massive, unplanned development of macadamia farms would have serious consequences.
Farmers – the biggest beneficiaries of the program – lacked this essential information, Vinh said.
"How is the tree cultivated? Who will they sell macadamia nuts to? Who will be the main consumers? These questions remain unanswered," he said. "Why doesn't Australia, which has been growing macadamia for many years, try to develop more macadamia areas if the profits are really attractive? Because it is not that easy to make a profit."
Vinh warned that macadamia trees cannot be grown anywhere. It requires very strict ecological conditions and a cool climate, including stable, low temperatures of between 18 and 25 degrees Celcius for several months during flowering and fruit-setting.
Nguyen Tu Siem, former head of the Ministry of Agricultural and Rural Development's Department of Agricultural and Forestry Extension, said in an article published in the Lao Dong (Labour) Newspaper that there were only 80,000ha of macadamia in the world. So Viet Nam's 200,000ha target was too high.
"Moreover, it hasn't been explained why countries where the conditions is rather favourable for macademia don't expand their cultivation areas," he said in the article.
Lack of guidance
Macadamia's economic benefits haven't been proven yet. And farmers are already suffering losses because they lack proper guidance.
Tran Chien Thang, a resident of Tan Ha Commune in Lam Dong Province, said he replaced two hectares of his coffee plantation with macademia, but lost everything after six years.
Thang is not alone. Many other farmers in the province face the same difficulties, because they didn't buy qualified seedlings from credible suppliers.
"The prices for seedlings given by credible suppliers were way too high for us," he said. "So I bought the seeds and made the seedlings myself."
Nguyen Truc Bong Son, director of the Agriculture Extension Center of Lam Dong Province, said he was much worried about farmers trying to grow the nuts without proper planning.
"Spontaneous plantation of the trees without a secure consumption market will lead to bad economic consequences, especially when policymakers haven't made a detailed strategy or guided farmers," Son said. —VNS