In mid-June, during the peak of the fourth Covid-19 wave, up to 100,000 tons of lychee sourced from Bac Giang Province, Vietnam’s largest pandemic center, were sold.
Bac Giang’s lychee is in a once-in-a-century situation: Bac Giang’s lychee growers have had the best harvest ever but this is also the first time they have faced a pandemic.
Lychee selling campaign
Lychees have sold well despite the complicated situation of the Covid-19 epidemic.
In early May, 28,100 hectares of Bac Giang lychees were about to be harvested when the fourth wave of Covid-19 unexpectedly broke out. Lychee farmers were under great pressure: harvesting 180,000 tons of lychee within only two months.
An urgent plan was developed with three campaigns: protecting lychee growing areas; promoting lychee sales on e-commerce sites and via large-scale modern retail channels; exporting lychee to the largest market, China, and promoting the export of high-quality lychee to the picky markets of Japan, Australia, and the European Union (EU).
To clear the way to the largest importing market, Bac Giang authorities created favorable conditions for 190 Chinese traders to enter Bac Giang to purchase lychee while sending a "special team" to Vietnam-China border gates to support lychee exports. A "green channel" prioritizing lychee clearance was also established.
To date, about 30,000 tons of lychee have been ordered by Chinese traders. It is expected that this market will buy 85,000 tons of lychees.
This year Bac Giang lychee is sold on six e-commerce platforms including: Sendo, Voso (Viettel Post), Tiki, Shopee, Postmart (VNpost), and Lazada. More than 300 tons of Bac Giang lychee were sold on these sites within the first few hours. Bac Giang lychee also sold during livestreams for the first time.
Big retailers have purchased thousands of tons of lychee to sell directly and online. VinMart and VinMart + chains ordered 2,000 tons, while MM Mega Market planned to sell 500-700 tons, and GO! and BigC chains are selling hundreds of tons.
Bac Giang is exporting high-quality lychee to Japan for VND500,000 ($23) per kilo. This year, about 1,000 tons of Bac Giang lychee will be shipped to Japan. Bac Giang lychee has also been exported to Australia and France. Lychee has become a specialty of Vietnam in the international market.
Amid the pandemic, Bac Giang lychee has been sold well. The campaign was a success as Vietnamese consumers did not have to “rescue” lychee farmers as they had done before to help watermelon and guava growers. Instead, lychee was exported or transported by air to HCM City. Lychees were packed luxuriously and sold at high prices online.
Thanks to good preparation from production to consumption, Bac Giang and Hai Duong have had another successful lychee season.
Besides Bac Giang, Hai Duong – another lychee growing province – has taken measures to help its farmers sell lychee.
Before the harvest season, Hai Duong farmers participated in a training course on traceability and opened their stalls on e-commerce platforms. A large-scale trade promotion conference to promote the brand of Hai Duong lychee and to seek lychee traders was held. Fruit processors and big retailers were invited to visit gardens to survey and purchase lychee.
Mr. Vu Viet Anh, Deputy Director of Hai Duong Province's Department of Agriculture and Rural Development, said that as of May 31, Hai Duong had harvested and sold about 29,000 tons of lychee, equal to 85% of early-season lychee output and 55% of the total lychee output. Of these, about 15,000 tons were exported to China, Laos and Cambodia, and 1,500 tons of high-quality lychee were shipped to Japan, Singapore, USA, and South Korea.
In the domestic market, Hai Duong lychee have appeared in supermarkets, fruit store systems, traditional wet markets and on e-commerce sites.
This year, Hai Duong lychee is sold for high and stable prices, ranging from VND22,000 to VND50,000 per kilo.
The story of Son La mango
While growers of mango, chili, sweet potato, purple onion and dragon fruit in many localities could not find markets for their products due to the impact of pandemic, lychee farmers in Hai Duong and Bac Giang epidemic centers did not need to be "rescued". In the northern mountainous province of Son La, another bountiful season is also coming.
At present, when the prices of mango in the southern provinces have plunged and mango farmers are unable to sell their fruit, farmers in Son La are busy harvesting mango to export and sell to fruit processing factories. Thousands of tons of mangoes have been ordered.
In the past five years, Son La has emerged as a "phenomenon". In the past, this poor province grew only corn and cassava but it has now become the second largest fruit tree growing province in the country and the largest fruit and vegetable production and processing center in the Northwest region.
But Son La’s success is a long story. The local authorities have quietly carried out a strategy to restructure the province’s agriculture. Son La has called for investment in building large-scale fruit and vegetable processing factories associated with vegetable and fruit growing areas.
In 2020, the Covid-19 pandemic broke the supply and demand chain; exports were almost paralyzed for a period, but Son La’s farmers were not affected as they had a stable market. There are many Vietnamese dong billionaire farmers in Son La today.
Former Minister of Agriculture and Rural Development Nguyen Xuan Cuong said that based on its current strategy, Son La would earn $1 billion per year from the exports of agricultural products in the near future.
Photo: Son La is now a center of agricultural product processing in the Northwestern region.
No more “rescue”
Without specific plans on growing and selling agricultural products, farmers in many provinces in Vietnam cannot sell their products. Therefore, the call for Vietnamese consumers to “rescue” agricultural produces has been launched in recent years.
According to experts, the call for “rescue” of agricultural products shows incompetence in planning. Minister of Agriculture and Rural Development Le Minh Hoan said that in the value chain, farmers are in charge of production, while businesses are in charge of bringing agricultural products to the market. “We have to change the mindset from agricultural production to agricultural economics. If we cannot connect the domestic and foreign markets, we will be passive in consuming agricultural products,” he said.
In fact, not only the Covid-19 epidemic but also natural disasters and climate change are future threats. Therefore, transforming the growth model and changing the emphasis on quantity and output to quality is a must, as higher output does not mean higher income, but vice versa.
The northern province of Bac Giang, dubbed Vietnam’s “kingdom of lychee”, has devised three scenarios for the sales of its staple in the face of the COVID-19 pandemic.