The litchi orchards in Luc Ngan, the “chief litchi district” of Vietnam are ripening profusely. Chinese merchants have been waiting here for a couple of weeks to collect litchis to carry to China for sale.
Best products carried to China
Chinese merchants have been present in Luc Ngan since late June 2011–they rent warehouses to keep litchis and have begun collecting litchis from farmers, though litchis would only ripen profusely in mid July.
It is estimated that there are about 40 litchi collection points on the road from San Street in Phuong Son Commune to the central area of Luc Ngan district which lasts some ten kilometers. On Kim Street alone, there are nearly ten collection points where Chinese merchants collect and weight litchis themselves.
Saigon Tiep Thi’s reporters, who acted as Vietnamese merchants, seeking to purchase litchis to carry to the south for sale, came to see Mai, a woman on Kim Street, to ask to rent the 50 square meters of ground to keep litchis.
Mai told the merchants that they have to pay 150,000 dong a day in the rent for the ground, which is large enough to keep 15 tons of litchis a day.
Mai said that the rent is relatively low which is offered only to Vietnamese people. If Mai rents the ground to Chinese merchants, the rent would be no less than 250,000 dong a day.
“Go and ask Chinese merchants about the rent,” Mai told the Vietnamese merchants.
“H”, 40, a Chinese merchant, who is renting a warehouse on Kim Street, has confirmed that he has to pay 250,000 dong per day for the warehouse. He said that he and the other three men have been present here for the last three days during which they have collected more than 40 tons of litchis. The third container vehicle, carrying 15 tons of litchis is still lying at the Tan Thanh border gate in Lang Son province, waiting for the customs clearance.
H said the litchis will be carried to Kun Ming in Yun Nan for sale.
It seems that Vietnamese farmers prefer selling litchis to Chinese merchants to Vietnamese ones. While Vietnamese merchants have to stand on the roads and persuade Vietnamese farmers to sell litchis, Chinese merchants to do not have to do that, but they still can attract a lot of sellers.
Hoang Van Binh, a farmer in Phuong Son Commune, who has sold 1200 kilos of litchis to H at 13,000 dong per kilo, said that local residents all know the collection points of Chinese merchants. They whisper in each other ears that Chinese merchants pay higher prices and make decisions promptly.
Le Xuan Thuy in Giap Son Commune said that his family has got 4.3 tons of litchis this crop, but only 1.8 tons of best products can be sold to Chinese merchants at 13,000-15,000 dong per kilo. Meanwhile, the other 2.5 tons can only be sold to Vietnamese merchants at 5000 dong per kilo, who carry to the south.
In general, the collection by Chinese merchants goes very quickly. Just after two hours, they would stop purchasing when they have collected enough products for one container (about 15 tons).
Later farmers usually have to sell litchis at low prices. Hang in Hong Giang Commune complained that Chinese merchants refused to buy his litchis because they have enough already, while Vietnamese merchants only pay 6000 dong per kilo.
“Meanwhile, I could sell at 12,000 dong per kilo yesterday. 6000 dong per kilo is too low, which is just enough to cover the expenses for picking up fruits,” he said.
Trying to find the outlets for litchis
Hoang Minh Phuong, a senior official of Luc Ngan district, said that Luc Ngan has a bountiful crop this year with the total output of 90,000 tons, or 50 percent higher than the previous year. In order to help farmers to consume litchis, the provincial authorities allow Chinese merchants to collect products right in the locality.
According to Phuong, about 30 Chinese merchants are collecting litchis in Luc Ngan.
The vehicles carrying litchis can get the priority in following customs procedures, while 20 vehicles can be cleared at the same time in the peak month