Vietnam's lychee farmers still look to China as main export market

By , Anh MinhJune 2, 2016 | 03:25 am PT
Although Vietnam has opened up new export markets for its lychees to reduce its reliance on China, growers are still saving the pick of the bunch for traders from the northern neighbor.

China is Vietnam's biggest lychee customer, buying on average some of 60 percent of the annual crop, according to official statistics.

“Farmers prefer doing business with Chinese firms rather than local traders because they are willing to buy large quantities and offer higher prices,” said a fruit trader in Luc Ngan, a small town just north of Hanoi.

He added that Chinese traders are going to descend on the town in the next 20 days when the tropical fruit hits its short six-week season peak.

“When the time comes, you will see Chinese traders on every street corner in Luc Ngan. They visit lychee plantations in groups of dozen people. They carefully choose and grade the fruit then make deals with local farmers,” he continued.


Lychees are currently priced at VND28,000 - VND30,000 ($1.3) per kilogram. Photo by Phan Hau

Nguyen Thi Ly, a local trader, said last year she exported about 200 tons of lychees that she had managed to buy from local growers to China.

“Lychee growers forecast that this year’s output will be only 70 percent of last year due to unfavorable weather conditions. We expect the price will increase by one and a half times or even double from last year,” Ly said.

The northern province of Bac Giang currently has 30,000 hectares of lychees, down three percent from last year, said Duong Van Thai, vice chairman of the province.

Local growers like Tran Van Hanh estimate their output this year will slip by 50 percent but they still expect high revenues as low supply and high demand will drive the price up.

China is by far the country's largest market, but lychee farmers and traders have tried to make their way into other markets such as Japan, Australia and the U.S. hoping to find higher prices with more stable demand to end their reliance on China.

China is a massive market but the demand is unstable and it is hard to correctly predict due to a lack of information, said provincial vice chairman Duong Van Thai, adding that Chinese traders often force local farmers to give them discounts and change their offering prices two or three times a day.

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