Ben Tre province short of coconut

With vast gardens of green coconut trees, Ben Tre Province in the Mekong Delta is considered the capital of coconuts in Vietnam. Yet, this year, the province is short of the fruit.

Workers of a coconut procesing company make products from the fruit (Photo: SGGP)

Workers of a coconut procesing company make products from the fruit (Photo: SGGP)

Annually, Ben Tre province harvests 600 million of coconuts in 70,000 hectare of land. Selling the fruit is key income of residents there yet after the severe drought and salinity in 2016, the output decreased by 20-30 percent; as a consequence, companies had to import coconut for processing their products. 

Now, price of the fruit doubled last year at VND120,000 for twelve coconuts yet farmers have no fruit to sell. Farmer Nguyen Van Tan in Giong Trom District said that his family has over one hectare of land growing coconut. Before, he harvested 1,000 coconuts a month yet last month he had over 200 coconuts. Last year drought and salt intrusion were blamed for low output.
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Not only coconut tree but also other trees were impacted by the drought and salt intrusion. Deputy Head of the Department of Plant Protection Nguyen Van Dung  said that quantity and quality are badly affected; for instance coconut rice is less thick; accordingly,  it influenced processing products for export. Worse, shortage of coconut and fierce competition with foreign traders pushed up the price.
As per the information of the province’s Coconut Association, the province has nearly 2,000 manufacturing companies for export earning  more than $150 million a year. Currently, it needs 900 million coconuts per year to processing for export if factories work at full capacity. Deputy Chief of the Association Nguyen Trung Chuong said that drought and salinity have impacted on coconut output; consequently, several enterprises imported coconut from Indonesia; one company has imported 50,000. 
Some companies had to stop operation temporarily due to lacking coconut. Owner of Tan Phuoc Hung Company Nguyen Thi Be said that her company had shut down for nearly one month because there is no order and buoyant price of coconuts. She added that imported coconut is not as good as local fruit so owners of companies resorted to stop operation. Several companies had no choice but purchase coconut of neighboring provinces of Tien Giang, Tra Vinh to process products for exports. 
163,000 households grow coconut in Ben Tre Province yet its quality and output are not as high as expected plus unstable consumption leading to weak competition. Deputy Chairman of People’s Committee in Ben Tre Province Nguyen Huu Lap ordered to reinforce the relationship to guarantee for stable development.
To help farmers increase their income, related agencies have made policies and measures to back up them; for instance, projects to help farmers improve 300ha land for growing coconut at low effectiveness. Moreover, agencies selected 8,200 coconuts as seedlings. Additionally, agencies also built over 8,200 hectare of coconut farms and cacoa as well as developed 500 hectare of shrimp breeding in coconut farms.
However, these projects are piloted though its effectiveness proved to be good as income of farmers will be doubled the current level of VND60 – 70 million per hectare.
Really, most of coconut farms in Ben Tre were planted before 1975 so its yield is not high as expected. In addition, the fall in output of the fruit is due to climate change, rising seawater and diseases. Farmers are not keen on applying techniques in growing so its yield is quite poor this year.
Director of import-export Betrimex Nguyen Van Duc said in the integration, the coconut sector competitiveness must be lifted to create stability and improve farmers’ income especially taking heeds to increase the value of the tree from growing, harvesting processing and consuming.
Accordingly, enterprises must take initiative to build their own land for growing coconut and promise to consume the fruit. Direct connection between enterprises and farmers will help eliminate price cut by traders and ensure stable material supply to finish orders in time. Additionally, close connection between farmers and enterprises aims at long-term relationship and goals.
Following the severity of the fruit, last week, People’s Committee organized a seminar to discuss how to maintain coconut sector. Party Secretary Vo Thanh Hao stressed that it needs to set up cooperatives to link farmers and companies; related agencies will help farmers on techniques, seedlings, fertilizers, and consumption. Techniques should be employed to grow organic coconut farms. Furthermore, enterprises should have its own policies harmonizing with the governmental policies to close connect with farmers.

By staff writers – translated by ANH QUAN

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