Vietnamese farmer reaps rewards on the grapevine

June 27, 2016 | 05:34 pm GMT+7

Growing grapes earned 29-year-old Hoang Hai Phong from the northern mountainous province of Lang Son nearly $14,000 last year, significantly higher than the average annual income of $2,100 in Vietnam in 2015.

Phong was in the army before studying at a vocational school and eventually following higher education, but his passion for farming brought him back to the orchards.

Growing up in a family who relied on rice as their main source of income, Phong realized that it was not enough to sustain them, so he decided to turn to more lucrative fruit crops.

“To start with we grew watermelons and yellow melons but the income was unsteady. In 2012, we rented more land to grow grapes and have focused on that since then,” he said

Phong's orchard covers 18,000 square meters, and more than half of that is covered by grape vines.

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Phong and a homegrown watermelon. Photo by VnExpress.

Recalling when he first started growing grapes, Phong said that he encountered many difficulties. There were days Phong spent the all his time in the orchard to prune, fertilize and check every single grape vine. Although he had learnt about different planting techniques and attended training programs run by the Department of Science and Technology, putting them into practise was a whole new experience.

The first crop went down well although many people said his crop was smaller than Chinese grapes. This encouraged Phong to keep learning from books and Chinese experts. 

As a result, Phong and his family now harvest about 20 to 30 tons of grapes a year worth about VND300 million ($13.500) per year. His crops always sell out, and for a higher price than their Chinese competitors.

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Phong tends to his grape vines. Photo by VnExpress.

Phong has regular customers, but also advertises his grapes on social networks to find new clients.

“I often sell grapes in Lang Son Province and nearby provinces like Cao Bang and Thai Nguyen. I deliver the grapes right after receiving an order, as grapes, without preservatives, will rot after about three days after they are picked.”

At present, the family has more than 10,000 grape vines, and when it's time to harvest, they hire eight to ten workers.

The 29-year-old man hopes to expand his grape plantation to Thai Nguyen if the weather and soil there are suitable for growing grapes, he said.