Water chestnut season arrives in Mekong Delta

By Nguyet Nhi   May 23, 2020 | 02:01 pm GMT+7

Farmers in Soc Trang Province have been busy the last month harvesting what has been a bountiful water chestnut crop.

Nguyen Van Quan, 44 years old farmer in Soc Trangs Nga Nam Town, and his hired worker have been pulling water chestnut since early morning. He is among over 100 households in the area rely on growing and harvesting cay nan, or water chestnut, as their main source of income, which his family has been doing for five years.

Nguyen Van Quan, 44, of Nga Nam Town, and a hired worker have been harvesting water chestnut since early morning. Growing water chestnut is the main source of income for over 100 families in the area, including Quan's, who have been doing this for five years.
Nan, as water chestnut is called in Vietnamese, is a grass-like sedge that is harvested year-round and used like a vegetable by locals. The plant grows all over the Mekong Delta, but thrives in Bac Lieu and Soc Trang provinces.

According to Quan, planting water chestnut is quite easy because this plant can sustain on acid sulphate soil and grow rapidly during the rainy season. In the past, the plant was deem as wild grass and had no economic value. But that changed later on after traders bought and sold it to many neighboring provinces, the owner of the 5,000-square-meter field said.

According to Quan, growing water chestnut is quite easy because this hardy plant can withstand acidity in the soil and grows rapidly during the rainy season.
"In the past the plant was considered a weed, but that changed after it became popular in many neighboring provinces," the owner of a 5,000 sq.m farm said.

He also said that the harvesting stage requires lots of practice so that plant wont break when pulling out of the water. Workers need to use force not too strong and only choose one that has just sprouted out of the water about a length of hand.

Harvesting the plant requires a lot of practice to ensure it does not break when pulled out of the water. Workers need to use just the right amount of force and choose only those that have sprouted about the length of an arm out of the water.

Tran Thi Ut Nhi, a 49-year-old hired worker by Quan to help him harvesting water chestnut over the past years, shared she gets paid VND100,000 ($4.28) for her three hours shift. Harvesting water chestnut for hired is a common job in the neighborhood, especially for woman.

Quan has been hiring Tran Thi Ut Nhi, 49, to help him harvest for the last few years, and she said she gets paid VND100,000 ($4.28) for a three-hour shift. This is a common job in the neighborhood, especially for woman.

Normally, farmers harvest nan from early in the morning until 9 a.m. The harvested water chestnut are placed in bins which farmers drag back home with them to be sorted.

Normally, farmers harvest nan from early in the morning to 9 a.m. The harvested water chestnuts are placed in bins and dragged home to be sorted.

Quan stacks and arrange the water chestnut bundle neatly. Each day, he harvests around 150 kg and sells them to trader for VND5,500  ($0.24) per kilogram.

Quan stacks the water chestnut bundles neatly. Every day he harvests around 150 kg and sells them to traders for VND5,500 ($0.24) per kilogram.

He shared that his water chestnut

He said there were plants available for harvest every day in April, allowing him to earn VND30 million ($1,280).

The plant is then sorted, cut down to the size of 30 cm in length, washed and bundled up into stacks weighing between 600 gram to one kilo upon traders request.

The plants are sorted, cut to 30 cm, washed, and bundled into stacks of 600 grams to one kilogram as required by traders.

During the sorting process, farmers regularly pour water on top to avoid wilting.

During the sorting process, farmers regularly pour water on the water chestnuts to ensure they do not wilt.

Trader comes Quans farm to pick up the water chestnut.   Local farmers said lately there are even more traders came here to purchase nan so farmers do not have to worry about the output. The economic value of nan is now 2-3 times higher than that of rice cultivation on the same area, so there are households who have previously cultivated rice, but now have switched to growing water chestnut.

A trader has come to Quan's farm to buy his harvest.
Local farmers said recently more traders have been coming to buy their nan and so they do not have to worry about overproduction. With the crop now fetching two or three times higher prices than rice, households that previously grew the grain have now switched to growing water chestnut.

A trader picks up nan to be delivered them to the wet-market, supermarket and local restaurants in Soc Trang.

A trader picks up nan to deliver to wet markets, supermarkets and restaurants in Soc Trang.

The water chestnut has white flesh after the outer layer is removed. Locals cook and eat this plant like a regular vegetable and incorporate it various hotpots. Farmers in Nga Nam Town wish more people will know about this plant and hope it will become popular in the metropolitan cities in the future.

Water chestnut has white flesh after the outer layer is removed. Locals cook and eat it like a vegetable and use it in various hotpots. Farmers in Nga Nam Town hope it will become popular in cities in future.

 
 
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