“King of fruits” dethroned as drought sends prices spiraling

May 17, 2016 | 01:30 am PT
The worst drought in almost 100 years in Vietnam is wrecking havoc on the lives of durian farmers in the southern region.

Durian orchards in the southern province of Vinh Long cover nearly 3,000 hectares, but 10 percent of that area has so far been badly damaged by prolonged drought and extensive saltwater intrusion.

Tran Van Cua, a durian grower in Vung Liem district, said 60 percent of his 370 durian trees that had taken him between 12 and 15 years to grow had either withered or died due to saltwater intrusion.

He added that last year he earned VND700 million ($31,000) from 30 tons of durian, but expected a sharp fall in output this year.

So far this year, Cua has only been able to harvest 9 tons which may only fetch VND5,000 per kilogram due to low quality.

Farmer Ho Van Dung, who owns a 4,500 square meters durian plantation, said it will take him up to five years of assiduous cultivation to bring half of his farmland back to life.

These farmers are not alone in their struggle to survive the country’s worst drought and severe salinity in almost a century.


A woman and her son search for fish in pools created by an irrigation system in Soc Trang Province in the Mekong Delta on March 30. Photo by Reuters/Kham.

The drought, partially attributed to this year's El Nino, has led to a serious reduction of major goods produced in the region, including rice, seafood and coffee.

Water levels in Vietnam's Mekong Delta, a region that accounts for 50 percent of the country's rice and fruit production, 90 percent of its rice exports, and 60 percent of shrimp and fish exports, are at their lowest levels since 1926, according to a joint assessment by the Vietnamese government, the United Nations and many non-governmental organizations.

The report also found that more than 400,000 hectares of crops have been affected with varying degrees of productivity loss, and an additional 25,900 hectares have not been planted at all.

Local agriculture authorities said durian farmers need the government’s support to build a dyke system that surrounds the entire durian plantation to prevent salt water from leaking into irrigation canals and affecting the trees.

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