Macadamia millionaire dream slowly dies in Vietnam's Central Highlands

By Bui Hong Nhung   September 20, 2016 | 04:15 am PT
Macadamia millionaire dream slowly dies in Vietnam's Central Highlands
Agricultural experts beside macadamia trees. Photo by Dan Viet Newspaper
Farmers were banking on the nuts to make their fortunes.

A few years ago, farmers in Vietnam’s Central Highlands were rushing to plant macadamia trees with the hope of making their fortune from the nuts. Their hopes, however, faded after the trees failed to bear fruit after up to seven years.

Macadamia trees made their entry into Vietnam in the 1990s, but farmers only started cultivating them in Central Highland provinces in 2000. To date, Vietnam has about 2,000 hectares of maca.

Huynh Ngoc Huy, chairman of Lien Viet Post Bank, which founded the Vietnam Association of Macadamia, said that every hectare of macadamia has the potential to produce about three tons of nuts on average each year, bringing farmers about VND200 million ($9,000).

On the global market, demand for maca nuts is four times higher than total output, offering Vietnam the opportunity to take advantage of this shortfall.

Despite this potential, macadamia farmers in Vietnam have been unable to make money from maca nuts, and some have even cut down their trees.

Huy explained that farmers didn’t follow the planting plans set out by the Ministry of Agriculture. Instead, they bought inferior seedlings and used the wrong soil, so the trees didn't produce nuts.

The price of a high-quality sapling is about VND70,000-80,000 ($3-3.5), but growers picked up seedlings for VND25,000 to cut costs.

Huy said that authorities should be held responsible for the bad harvests because they didn't offer enough support to local farmers. 

Macadamia trees prefer well-drained soil in subtropical regions with temperatures ranging from 16-25 degrees Celsius. In Vietnam, only eight provinces have a suitable climate for macadamia, including five Central Highland provinces and three northern provinces.

In Hanoi's Ba Vi District, saplings imported from other countries were planted, but didn't bear fruit because they were not raised in the correct way.

The Ministry of Agriculture plans to increase Vietnam's macadamia plantations to 10,000 hectares by 2020, with 7,500 hectares interspersed with other trees like coffee and tea.

To encourage the cultivation of macadamia, the Vietnamese government decided to offer farmers who invested in plantations larger than 50 hectares VND15 million ($660) per hectare, as long as at least 30 percent of their workforces are local.

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