Southern fruit farmers plagued by poor harvest, low prices

Update: May, 25/2020 - 09:58


An avocado orchard in Bà Rịa – Vũng Tàu Province’s Châu Đức District. — VNA/VNS Photo Hoàng Nhị

HCM CITY — The southern region is entering the peak harvest season for many fruits like durian, mango, rambutan, avocado, mangosteen, and jackfruit, but farmers are suffering from poor harvests.

In Bến Tre and Tiền Giang provinces in the Cửu Long (Mekong) Delta, which have large areas under durian, farmers have been plagued this season by drought and severe saltwater intrusion.

In Bến Tre’s Châu Thành District, the quality of durian has been affected significantly due to the shortage of water.

Hà Chí Ngon, who has an 8,000sq.m orchard in the district’s Tân Phú Commune, said traders have been offering him VNĐ8,000 (US$38 cent) per kilo, but he has refused to sell since it is too low.

The price was VNĐ48,000 – 50,000 ($2 – 2.1) at this time last year, he said.

He earned an income of VNĐ400 million ($17,200) last year but is likely to suffer severe losses this year because of the low prices, he said.

Many farmers in Bến Tre growing high-value fruits like durian had to buy water to irrigate their orchards, but the fruit quality has still been affected.

Trần Thị Bạch Lan in Châu Thành’s Qưới Thành Commune paid VNĐ70 million ($3,000) for water to irrigate her 3,500sq.m orchard, but traders have refused to buy her durian because of poor quality and her family had to sell the fruits at local markets and on the roadside. She earned a total of VNĐ50 million ($2,100), or less than the cost of the water. 

Bến Tre has 2,000ha under durian, including 1,100ha in Châu Thành.

In Đồng Tháp, the price of Thai jackfruit has declined from VNĐ30,000 – 35,000 ($1.3 – 1.5) a kilo at the beginning of the year to VNĐ4,000 – 8,000 ($17 – 34 cent) now.

Traders attribute the price decline to the increase in supply since this is the peak harvest season and difficulty in exporting because of the COVID-19 pandemic. 

Many farmers in Đồng Tháp have picked young fruits and discarded them to enable the trees to have better fruits later when prices are hopefully higher. 

In Bình Dương Province, well known for its mangosteen, output has declined by 40 per cent this year.

The prices of mangosteen grown to Vietnamese good agricultural practices (VietGAP) standards are VNĐ50,000 – 55,000 ($2.15 – 2.4) a kilo compared to VNĐ50,000 – 80,000 in previous years.

Export difficulties and the competition from imported Thai mangosteen have caused the price decline, according to farmers.

Bùi Thị Hương Thảo of the Bình Dương Department of Agriculture and Rural Development said besides eating the fruit fresh, many people also use its flesh in dishes like salads.

The latter use means the fruit’s looks do not matter so much, reducing the pressure on farmers, she said.

The flesh is also frozen for consumption later, she added.

In Bà Rịa – Vũng Tàu Province, prolonged hot weather has reduced the yield and quality of many fruits like mango, rambutan, durian, and avocado.  

Bà Rịa – Vũng Tàu has about 10,370ha under fruits, 2,000ha more than in 2018.

The high prices of fruits in recent years have caused this increase, according to the province Department of Agriculture and Rural Development.

To sustainably develop fruit cultivation, the department encourages farmers to grow fruits to VietGAP and GlobalGAP standards for exports.

It has instructed farmers to use advanced techniques to grow fruits during the off-season to avoid price declines during the peak harvest season. — VNS