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Bitter harvest for Mekong fruit farmers

Many fruit farmers in the Mekong Delta have suffered losses this year due to crop failure caused by drought and saltwater intrusion and lower demand for fruits.



A durian fruit farm in the Mekong Delta province of Vinh Long. — Photo by Daily Travel Vietnam News Magazine.


Nguyen Ngoc Nhan, a rambutan grower in Binh Hoa Phuoc Commune in Vinh Long Province’s Long Ho District, said his commune has never suffered from salinity intrusion in the past, but this year water in canals have 0.3-0.4 per cent salt content.

Facing a freshwater shortage, farmers had to irrigate their orchards with water from canals, which caused their rambutan trees to wither and shed their leaves, he said.

Nhan said during the last harvest, rambutan prices dropped by nearly VND9,000 per kilogramme to VND6,000, causing farmers like him to suffer huge losses.

According to the commune People’s Committee, by early May salinity had affected 478ha of orchards, including 28ha of durian, 379ha of rambutan and over 70ha of longan.

Saltwater affected 95 per cent of lands in the commune, causing estimated losses of more than VND11 billion (nearly US$500,000).

Farmers on Tan Quy Island (in An Phu Tan Commune of Tra Vinh Province’s Cau Ke District) were also affected by drought and salinity.

The commune People’s Committee said around 250ha of orchards, mainly rambutan, were affected.

Nguyen Van Tri, a farmer on Tan Quy Island, said: “This year I grew rambutan trees on 1ha. But its yield was poor because the orchard was irrigated with saltwater which had intruded into rivers and canals in the area.”

According to figures from the Cho Lach District Division of Agriculture and Rural Development, some 1,600ha of durian, rambutan and other fruits were affected by saltwater. Of this, 240ha was fully destroyed, 720ha suffered 50-70 per cent damage, 240ha suffered 30-50 per cent damage, and 400ha lost up to 30 per cent.

Nguyen Van Tuan, a farmer in Tan Phu Commune in Ben Tre Province’s Chau Thanh District, said hundreds of 15-year-old durian trees in his orchards have withered.

Each used to produce some 120 fruits every year, and with the fruits selling at VND55,000-VND60,000 per kilogramme, he would earn over VND20 million (over $900) per tree per year, he added.

Falling fruit prices, low demand

According to fruit buyers in HCM City, fruits such as longan, plum, rambutan, and durian are being sold now at 50 to 70 per cent of last year’s prices.

Longan is sold at VND20,000 per kilogramme, Hoa Loc mango at VND25,000 and rambutan at VND30,000-40,000 and Thai rambutan at VND50,000 for three kilogrammes.

According to a manager at the Thu Duc Wholesale Market, though it is fruit harvest time, the volumes coming to his market were not large due to low demand.

He said only 1,400 tonnes are brought in daily, 400 tonnes less than a year ago. Around 320 tonnes of litchi come from northern provinces, only half of last years’ figure, he said.

The fruit sells for just VND25,000 this year, he added. — VNS

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