Pomelo prices down, farmers eye switch to other fruits

By Hoang Nam   March 11, 2023 | 05:08 pm PT
Pomelo prices down, farmers eye switch to other fruits
Huynh Van Quan in his pomelo orchard. Photo by VnExpress/Hoang Nam
Farmers in Vietnam’s main pomelo growing area, the Mekong Delta province of Ben Tre, are earning no profits from the fruit since prices have fallen sharply over the last two years.

Traders have been paying farmers VND15,000-21,000 (US$0.64-0.89) per kilogram during the period, down from VND40,000-50,000 in previous years.

Earlier this month Huynh Van Quan, 56, a farmer in the province’s Chau Thanh District, harvested over seven tons of pomelo from his four-hectare orchard and sold them for VND21,000 per kilogram.

Quan said his family tended the orchard and did not hire labor, and so his orchard made a small profit, but other farmers barely broke even amid the weak demand, high prices of fertilizers and pesticides and expensive labor.

Twenty five years ago Quan was among first in the district to cut down longan trees and grow pomelo instead at a cost of around VND100 million per hectare. He had his first harvest nearly five years later.

Due to the low prices of pomelo and worsening salinity in rivers in recent years in Ben Tre, many farmers are growing pomelo along with other kinds of fruit trees, with some even switching entirely to others such as coconut, which is more adaptable to drought and salinity.

"Siamese coconut trees can be harvested three years after being planted, can withstand drought and salinity and require little care, and so if pomelo prices continue to fall, we will probably give up pomelo to grow coconut," Tran Thi Thu Hoa, 64, said, adding that she planted coconut and cashew trees in her pomelo orchard in February.

Vo Van Nam, director of the Ben Tre Cultivation and Plant Protection Bureau, said last November Ben Tre became the first locality to export pomelo to the U.S., but the volume was small, while the Chinese market did not reopen until early this year. With domestic demand also being weak due to Covid, prices fell.

Ben Tre has some 10,000 ha under the fruit, or 30% of the Mekong Delta’s total, and grows nearly 200,000 tons of the fruit annually.

Chau Thanh alone accounts for over 3,300 ha.

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