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Ministry works on master plan for macadamia

Update: June, 06/2015 - 10:37
Early last year, the ministry approved 10 species of macadamia for cultivation in Viet Nam. — Photo nongnghiep

HA NOI (VNS) — For three years, the Ministry of Agriculture and Rural Development (MARD) has been working on a master plan for macadamia development, Ha Cong Tuan, deputy minister of Agriculture and Rural Development, told Viet Nam News.

Tuan said the ministry did not want to let macadamia plantations get out of control, leading to over production and low prices..

Lately, conflicting ideas have emerged about the development of macadamias as a cash crop.

In Ha Noi on Thursday, the ministry, in collaboration with the Australian Embassy, held a workshop on the development of the Australian rainforest nut in Viet Nam.

Tuan said that the master plan would probably be produced by the end of the year.

Australian origins

Macadamia, botanically belonging to the family of Proteaceae in the genus Macadamia, is indigenous to Australia. Its sweet and tasty nut is said to be packed with healthy nutrients.

They can also be eaten as a snack or made into cooking oil, powderded like chocolate or used in beauty-care products.

Viet Nam started planting macadamias about 10 years ago and currently grows about 2,000 ha, with an average output of three tonnes per hectare.

With the current price of the nuts pegged at about $15 per kilogramme, farmers can earn $2,000 to $3,000 per hectare.

The ministry has recently dispatched a note to local governments saying that up until 2020, the supply of qualified seedlings would be enough to plant out 10,000ha.

The ministry also said that macadamias will be planted only in areas it has researched and designated for cultivation.

Deputy Agriculture Minister Tuan said the ministry had researched this tree for 20 years and found that several areas in Viet Nam had suitable soil and climate to grow it.

Tran Vinh, deputy head of the Central Highlands Agriculture and Forestry Institute, has also spent many years researching macadamia.

Vinh warned that the trees could not be grown anywhere. They required very strict ecological conditions and a cool climate, including stable, low temperatures of between 18 and 25 degrees Celsius for several months during flowering and fruit-setting.

Deputy Agriculture Minister Tuan said his ministry has received reports from some provinces complaining that private suppliers are selling substandard seedlings.

He said that in the long run, this practice was dangerous because it took seven to nine years for a Macadamia seedling to produce nuts. If it bore none, all that time would be wasted, Tuan said.

Tran Chien Thang, a farmer in Tan Ha Commune in Lam Dong Province, said he had replaced two hectares of his coffee crop with macadamia.

"The prices for seedlings given by credible suppliers were way too high for us," he said. "So I bought the seeds and grew the seedlings myself."

Early last year, the ministry approved 10 species of macadamia for cultivation in Viet Nam.

Under the current law, only species approved by the ministry can be put into mass production.

Tuan said macadamia cultivation must go hand in hand with storage and processing because the nut preserving process was not as simple as coffee beans.

Nuts must be collected and processed within 24 hours of being picked.

And after being separated from the nut, the seed must be air-dried several times.

Then, the seeds must be stored in a temperature of under 16 degrees Celsius with humidity of less than 10 per cent.

Deputy Agriculture Minister Tuan said Viet Nam could learn from Australia and Kenya, where the nut was grown commercially. — VNS

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