Farmer Trần Ngọc Phú (right), of central province of Phú Yên instructs another farmer to make organic fertiliser. — VNA/VNS Photo Xuân Triệu
PHÚ YÊN — As demand for healthy food grows, one farmer in the Phú Yên Province has decided to go organic.
The switch has not only helped him to reap the rewards, but also greatly benefitted other farmers in his region.
Trần Ngọc Phú, 47, left his home town in Hương Điền District, Thừa Thiên-Huế Province in central Việt Nam more than 30 years ago.
He decided to better his prospects by moving to Ea Bar Commune, a mountainous area of Phú Yên on Việt Nam's south-central coast.
Once he arrived he began working on rubber plantation, and continued to do so until 2017 when the company dissolved.
Faced with a tough decision of what to do next, Phú decided to start his own business.
“It was a really a difficult time for me as I did not know where to start,” he said.
“After a lot of research on the internet, I found that people paid more and more attention to what they were eating and they were willing to pay more for clean and healthy products.”
That was Phú’s eureka moment but he wanted to be sure he had the sufficient knowledge to make his business a success.
He travelled to Hà Nội to study at the Việt Nam Agriculture Institute and also visited organic farms in Bình Phước and Đắk Lắk to gather as much information as he could.
Knowledge collected, Phú began his enterprise, growing durian, sacha inchi and passion fruit on his four-hectare orchard without using any herbicides.
He used natural products such as fermented fish and fruit peel to protect his trees and animal waste and coffee pods to make fertiliser.
It wasn’t always plain sailing, and Phú made many mistakes along the way.
He added: “With little experience and understanding when first applying organic farming, I failed many times, then I tried again and again.”
Creating suitable organic fertiliser made from fermented small fish, fruit peels and probiotics was one such headache and he had to study the characteristics of soil and trees.
Over and over he had to try and find the right combinations, and some fellow farmers questioned the direction he was heading.
“Organic farming was very strange to many farmers in my locality at that time. They were sceptical about my farming method and did not think that I would succeed,” Phú said.
But they soon changed their ways of thinking when they realised Phú was turning a healthy profit.
In 2018, Phú earned VNĐ20 million from 100 passion fruit trees and VĐ150 million from growing sacha inchi and rubber together.
What impressed them more is that Phú’s three-year-old durian garden was disease free and producing healthy fruit.
According to Phú, there are three main factors that make organic farming models successful.
First, as no chemical is used in the model, products’ prices are higher than other products but consumers will still accept and buy the products.
Second, growing short-term fruit trees like sacha inchi or passion fruit and long-term fruit trees like durian is a strategy that uses short-term investment as stepping-stones towards achieving a long-term goals.
Third, Phú sent his sacha inchi seed for testing indicators of omega, calcium, protein. Testing results proved the quality of the products plus no pesticide residue.
This whole process was recorded and traceable so customers can check the products’ origins easily.
With his accumulated experiences and knowledge on organic farming, Phú shared it with other farmers.
Trần Đình Mậu, another farmer in Ea Bar Commune said that last year, Phú helped him with his two-hectare area macadamia nut farm.
“My customers like the organically-grown macadamia more than the ones grown using conventional methods,” Mậu said, adding that now, he used organic fertilisers to all his crops.
Nguyễn Văn Khúc, secretary of the commune’s party committee said, adding that the organic farming models generated high economic benefits and organic products were welcomed in market.
In August last year, Phú established Ea Bar Emi Farm Co-operatives, attracting nine members. They apply organic farming in more than 50 ha of orchards and herbs.
They hope to develop a zone specialising in organic fruits in the mountainous area of Phú Yên Commune.
However, Phú admitted that besides financial issues, they faced another difficulty in management.
“We farmers are used to doing farming work, now, we have tried to run business, managing a co-operative is not easy for us,” Phú said.
Phạm Trọng Yêm, deputy head of Phú Yên Province’s Co-operatives Alliance said that Phú’s co-operative should join the alliance so that it would receive more supports in technology, trade promotion, branding, human resource training as well as loans. — VNS