|Trịnh Văn Phúc’s dragon fruit orchard in Gò Công Đông District in Tiền Giang Province. —VNA/VNS Photo Minh Trí|
TIỀN GIANG — The Cửu Long (Mekong) Delta province of Tiền Giang has expanded its dragon fruit growing area to nearly 9,000ha and annual output to 200,000 tonnes.
Dragon fruit is easy to grow, has high yields and is the province’s important fruit export.
The province grows mostly red-flesh dragon fruit, which is resistant to drought and able to grow in alum- and saltwater-affected areas.
So the province has chosen to develop its cultivation in areas with difficult farming conditions to mitigate saltwater intrusion, according to the provincial Department of Agriculture and Rural Development.
The country’s largest fruit producing province grows dragon fruit mostly in Gò Công, which has adequate freshwater, Gò Công Đông on the coast and the low-lying Đồng Tháp Mười (Plain of Reeds) region.
In Gò Công, Chợ Gạo District, it has developed concentrated dragon fruit growing areas of more than 7,700ha for exports.
The district has been granted a collective brand name “Chợ Gạo dragon fruit” by the National Office of Intellectual Property.
It has established co-operatives and co-operative groups to bring farmers together to adopt good agricultural practices (GAP) standards and ensure origin traceability.
It has strengthened advocacy activities to advertise the fruit and promote its sales.
In Gò Công Đông District, Kiểng Phước Commune normally faces saltwater intrusion in the dry season which affects rice cultivation.
Nguyễn Tấn Đạt, deputy chairman of the commune, said to restructure agriculture to cope with climate change and natural disasters, more than 100ha of farmlands in coastal areas have been turned into red-flesh dragon fruit orchards.
The commune plans to increase this to 250ha by 2025, he added.
Trịnh Văn Phúc was one of the first farmers in the commune’s Xóm Chủ Hamlet to switch from rice to red flesh dragon fruit.
He uses intensive farming methods and produces off-season fruit to harvest about 25 tonnes and earn VNĐ300-350 million (US$12,800-15,000) a year, many times higher than from rice, he said.
The price of dragon fruit is high this year and farmers said they are earning high incomes as a result.
Red flesh dragon fruit fetches VNĐ30,000-35,000 ($1.3-1.5) a kilogramme, three times the price 12 months ago.
Income from dragon fruit is high and second only to durian, the province’s speciality fruit.
In the Đồng Tháp Mười region, Tân Phước District has expanded dragon fruit farming in recent years and now has nearly 1,000ha under it.
Nguyễn Văn Mẫn, director of the provincial Department of Agriculture and Rural Development, said the province is implementing various measures to enhance the competitiveness of its dragon fruit.
It has set up co-operatives with linkages for growing and selling dragon fruit and taught farmers advanced growing techniques to improve fruit quality and produce in the off-season to avoid oversupply during the main harvest season.
It has boosted the use of GAP standards and exports the fruit through official channels to China and other demanding markets.
It has 11 co-operatives that grow and buy dragon fruits and 2,300ha of dragon fruit grown to GAP standards.
It has 5,493ha of dragon fruit with production codes for official export to China and 1,271ha with codes for export to Japan, the US, South Korea, and Australia.
To get a code, a dragon fruit growing area needs to be at least 10ha and adopt VietGAP or other equivalent standards. — VNS