Viet Nam News
Starting from scratch, a Mekong Delta farmer learnt everything he could about growing oranges and decided quality was more important than quantity. It paid off big time, report Minh Tuấn & Hà Nguyễn.
Phan Văn Chung, 43, is what one might call an orange "tycoon". With 70,000 trees of the citrus fruit and a handsome annual profit, the once-poor rice farmer was recently awarded the title of Việt Nam Excellent Farmer for 2016.
He is the only farmer in the Mekong Delta province of Vĩnh Long to have received the distinguished title and many other certificates for his achievements in production and business.
Chung told Việt Nam News that he turned to cultivating oranges in the 1990s when he realised they could provide him with a stable income and extricate his family from extreme poverty because they earned their living only by growing rice.
“I chose to plant orange because it a short-term tree that can bear fruit fast compared with other crops and give me a quick capital turnover,” said Chung.
He relates a story: at that time very few farmers in Trà Côn Village of Trà Ôn District knew how to grow oranges and he encountered many difficulties stemming from lack of experience and knowhow.
But he was determined. He traveled far and wide to surrounding districts and provinces to learn from others how to grow and tend the trees, and at night he read books and newspapers on the subject.
He also attended seminars and training courses to improve his knowledge and apply it to his beloved orange trees.
“I invested all my time in my orange garden and I found that each piece of land needs its own care. But much more important is the quality of the orange trees. I have to choose good young trees with a high resistance to disease, in addition to suitable fertilizer, insecticide and cultivation methods,” he said.
Each kg of orange sells for VNĐ20,000-25,000, and the price increases to VNĐ30,000-35,000 per kg between crops, he said.
As a result, he earns VNĐ13 billion (US$582,000) annually from his 25ha orchard. This translates to a net annual profit of VNĐ6.5 billion ($291,000).
Chung said gardners in the region often grow oranges at a density rate of 5,000 trees per hectare, space them only one metre apart, and collect 100 oranges per tree.
“Unlike them, I plant 3,000 trees per hectare and distance them two metres from each other. I also collect only 60 fruit per tree,” he said.
It’s not the quantity that counts, in this case. His trees yield quality fruit and provide stable bumper crops for up to six years compared with others, which yield fruit only for four-five years, Chung told Việt Nam News.
He said, however, that planting the trees not only requirs experience, technique and passion, but also keeping in mind the needs of customers and market prices.
To earn a high profit, Chung has to research and learn from the experience of big orange growers in HCM City and Đồng Nai so as to avoid planting his orange trees at the wrong time (the right time is often in spring ).
“ I have to keep the garden clean, use suitable insecticide, put lime powder to sterilize bacteria and harm insects on each tree, and watch each tree closely until it blooms and bears fruits,” said Chung.
Trader Nguyễn Thị Huyền from Hà Nội is among many others in the city who order oranges from Chung, saying his fruit is of high quality and sells well.
Ngô Văn Hiểu, deputy chairman of the Trà Côn Village Farmers Association, said Chung is among the very few growers making such a high profit.
Hiểu praised Chung for his contribution to the village by giving stable jobs to as many as 70 workers in peak season. “He is active in telling villagers about his experiences and guiding them how to apply the right techniques,” he said.
Hiểu said the province proposed that the Prime Minister award Chung with a certificate of excellence. VNS