Residents in Ben Tre Province harvest coconuts. With more than 50,000ha, Ben Tre has the largest coconut planting area in Viet Nam, and the province aims to increase coconut cultivation by 3-5,000ha. — VNA/VNS Photo Duong Ngoc
BEN TRE —
The coconut was the most useful tree in the world since all parts of the coconut palms and nuts could be used, providing materials for many industries, including the processing industry and tourism, said Phan Van Khong, director of Ben Tre Agricultural Promotion Centre.
The country has about 147,210ha under coconut cultivation, yielding 818,000 fruits a year. The coconut mainly grows in 13 Mekong River Delta provinces, which accounts for 75 per cent of the country’s total coconut output.
With more than 50,000ha under coconuts, Ben Tre Province has the largest planted area of coconuts in Viet Nam and is often called the "land of the coconut".
Many coconut processing establishments are also based in the province, including copra processing and drying factories and small establishments producing coconut candy, caramel and jelly.
The price of coconut fruit this year increased 3 to 4 times compared to five years ago to VND80,000-VND90,000 for every 12 fresh coconuts and VND150,000 for every 12 coconuts used for processing.
At current prices, profits from coconut cultivation had doubled profits from a rice plantation, Khong said.
He said Viet Nam had great potential for coconut plantation, production and processing.
Coconuts could grow on all kinds of soil while fruits were less suitable, so most of Ben Tre’s brackish zones were used for coconuts, he said, adding that coconuts could grow with other crops (intercropping), including cocoa, banana and pomelo.
He said intercropping cocoa with coconuts resulted in higher profits for the farmers than monoculture of coconuts.
In the next few years, the province would increase the area of intercropping cocoa with coconuts from the current of 7,000ha to 15,000ha.
Khong also advised farmers to focus more attention on caring for the tree as putting fertiliser, watering to raise the tree’s output.
A coconut tree in Viet Nam has an annual average output of 36-37 fruits, equaling the average output in other countries.
Coconuts in the Mekong Delta have a higher yield than in other regions in Viet Nam, to 48-50 fruits a tree a year.
"The output can increase to 100 fruits per year if the tree gets enough water and fertiliser, as well as measures to prevent and control diseases on trees," Khong said.
Le Van Tuoi, an outstanding farmer in Giong Trom District, agreed with Khong, saying that coconuts also required nursing like other fruit trees to improve their output.
With higher prices of coconuts in recent years, the income of coconut-producing households also increased very quickly across the entire country, greatly contributing to improve the income of poor households, said Vo Van Long, deputy chairman of the Viet Nam Coconut Association.
The coconut sector had created many jobs for the local people in Ben Tre, especially for the poor who participated in all activities in the supply chain, he said.
"The price of coconut is expected to remain high since consumption of fresh coconut and coconut-based products as coconut oil, copra and desiccated coconut is projected to increase steadily over time, both in domestic and global markets."
Phan Thi Thu Suong, deputy director of Ben Tre Province’s Department of Agriculture and Rural Development, said currently many coconut processing establishments faced significant shortages of raw coconuts for processing because many businesses from China came to the province to buy the nut.
Long said Ben Tre and Tra Vinh last year earned about US$100 million from exports of fresh coconut and coconut-based products each.
However, exports of coconut-based with high value-added products accounted for a modest rate, and the country as well as the province should encourage businesses to apply advanced technology in production to produce more higher value-added products, he said.
Delegates at the conference agreed that, in the wake of climate change, coconut trees would become more common and popular since they were more adaptable to climate change than other trees.
They also suggested that the Government devise a zoning plan for coconut cultivation and call on farmers to strictly follow the plan to ensure sustainable development of the industry.
Co-organised by the National Agricultural Extension Centre, Ben Tre Department of Agriculture and Rural Development and the Ben Tre Agricultural Promotion Centre, more than 300 agricultural experts and farmers from18 provinces attended the conference.