Farmers await foreign interest in lychee with bated breath

Update: May, 18/2015 - 09:03
Lychees are ready to be delivered to markets in Thanh Ha District of Hai Duong Province. Despite visits by many overseas companies and organisations recently, the chance of exporting the fruit remains unclear. — VNA/VNS Photo Dinh Hue.

BAC GIANG (VNS) — Farmers in the Luc Ngan District in northern Bac Giang Province are holding their breath about the prospect of their lychees being exported to foreign markets this year.

Despite visits by many overseas companies and organisations in the last year or so, there were no concrete steps taken to advance the market for the popular fruit.

Tran Quang Tuan, chairman of the district's People Committee, said local farmers cultivate 17,500ha of lychees, of which 9,500ha met Vietnamese Good Agriculture Practices (VietGAP), a set of standards for agricultural production set out by Viet Nam's Ministry of Agriculture and Rural Development (MARD).

Tuan said that in anticipation of stricter standards set by foreign markets, local farmers started to grow more than 60ha of lychee to GlobalGAP, a global farm-assurance program, translating consumer requirements into safe and good practices in farm production.

Giap Van Huy, who expects his garden to produce up to 10 tonnes of lychees this year, said his family and several other local farmers had been following standards set down by GlobalGAP.

"We are really hoping that our lychee fruit will be exported to the United States, but up until now, there have been no offers," he said.

One of the conditions set out by the US Department of Agriculture that local farmers were unable to follow was that the fruit must be wrapped in nylon 21 days before harvest.

"Lychee fruits are quite different from apples or grapes as they won't continue to grow inside nylon wrapping. Perhaps we need to explain how lychee fruits grow better," said Giap Van Thanh, a local farmer.

Last year, farmers in the district rejoiced when a 10-tonne batch of lychees were exported to Japan, marking the first time Vietnamese lychees made its way into a market with highly sophisticated and strict requirements.

Farmers viewed it as proof that their products would be able to enter other markets, ending their entire dependency on the domestic and Chinese markets.

They said Chinese traders often insisted on various discounts and their offering prices were too unstable. Prices could be adjusted two or three times a day, depending on supply.

"A lot of extra work was required to export lychees to Japan and the price was not much higher, but it gives farmers other options," said Xay, one of the successful exporters.

MARD estimates there will be 200,000 tonnes of lychees this year, of which 40 per cent will be exported.

Recently, farmers could not find markets for Quang Nam watermelons and Soc Trang onions, highlighting the need to find new markets for Vietnamese farm products.

Steps are being taken to give Vietnamese lychees access to a number of new markets, including the United States, Australia and South Korea.

On April 24, the Australian Department of Agriculture, Fisheries and Forestry said Australia would allow the importation of Vietnamese lychees if quarantine and other standards were met.

Once entry is granted, the country is likely to become the second largest market for Viet Nam's lychee, after the US.

At a meeting on Friday, Deputy Director of HCM City Industry and Trade Department, Nguyen Phuong Dong, said the city would do its best to support selling lychees from Hai Duong and Bac Giang provinces.

Dong said the department would instruct supermarkets and wholesale markets to push sales in the city and to southern provinces.

Nguyen Anh Cuong, deputy chairman of Hai Duong Province People's Committee, said lychees were mostly grown Bac Giang and Hai Duong provinces. He said a total of 43,000 hectares was under cultivation and export accounted for 30 per cent of annual production.

Cuong said provincial authorities were working hard to boost the sale of lychees throughout the nation. — VNS