Bình Thuận Province farmers cut down dragon fruit trees on losing China market

March 24, 2022 - 08:43

Dragon fruit farmers in Bình Thuận Province have cut down thousands of trees and switched to other crops after suffering heavy losses due to low prices.


Thousands of dragon fruit trees have been cut down in Bình Thuận Province after prices collapsed recently. Photo nld.com.vn

HCM CITY – Dragon fruit farmers in Bình Thuận Province have cut down thousands of trees and switched to other crops after suffering heavy losses due to low prices.

Dragon fruit prices have fallen off a cliff after the impasse at the China border due to COVID-19 fears held up Vietnamese trucks laden with various goods since late of last year.

Phạm Kim Lâm, a farmer in Hàm Thuận Bắc District, said the current dragon fruit prices of VNĐ1,000-3,000 per kilogramme caused him to lose VNĐ100 million (US$4,400) this season.

"I have cut down more than 1,000 dragon fruit trees and keep only around 600 to monitor the situation. If prices do not increase in the next few months, I will cut them all down.

“I still haven't decided what fruit tree to switch to, but it is impossible to keep dragon fruit trees because fertilisers are very expensive."

According to farmers, one kilogramme of dragon fruit grown in the off-season must fetch VNĐ7,000-10,000 for them to break even due to the high costs of fertilisers and electricity, while currently in some places prices have fallen to even VNĐ500.

The cost of labour for harvesting alone is VNĐ600 per kilogramme.

Phạm Thị Lan, another farmer, said she recently sold five tonnes of the fruit to a trader for just VNĐ2 million, and called it “fortunate”, saying many farmers just could not sell their produce but still had to hire labourers to clean their orchards.

"After this crop, my family has to temporarily stop farming because there is no money left."

According to the Dragon Fruit Association of Bình Thuận Province, the price of the fruit has dropped sharply because export by road to China through the northern border is unviable since it is congested due to China’s tightened COVID-19 preventive measures for people, vehicles and goods packaging.

Exporting by sea is infeasible due to the scarcity of containers and high transport costs, it said.

Many dragon fruit export firms in Bình Thuận are also struggling.

Container shipping costs in Việt Nam have quadrupled from pre-pandemic levels, even increased eight-fold, on certain high-demand routes, SSI Research said.

Huỳnh Cảnh, vice chairman of the Dragon Fruit Association of Bình Thuận Province, said shipping costs had increased from $1,600 per container at the beginning of 2020 to $5,000 by that year-end and to $9,100 now.

According to the Vietnam Maritime Administration, the pandemic has forced shipping companies to cut back on operations, causing a shortage of containers, and the closure of many ports around the world has increased shipping costs.

To help farmers, the association is looking at domestic consumption channels like traditional markets and supermarkets, but demand remains modest.

With exports to China falling to a trickle, it has urged authorities to step up promotion to help find customers elsewhere, especially in India, and develop the domestic market through supermarket chains to reduce the dependence on the northern neighbour.

With vegetarians making up a large proportion of the Indian population and people there consuming imported dragon fruit at weddings, it is potentially a huge market for Việt Nam, experts said. – VNS