Too few Global GAP rambutans
Rambutans are being grown mainly in Dong Nai and Ben Tre provinces. However, the fruits which can meet GAP standards can only be found in Cho Lach district. According to Bui Thanh Liem from the Cho Lach district’s agriculture sub-department, the total GAP rambutan growing area has reached 26.3 hectares, including ¼ of the area for longan-rambutan and the other ¾ for java rambutan.
With the yield of 20-25 tons per hectare for java rambutan and 18-20 tons per hectare for longan rambutan, Vietnam will have 500-650 tons of rambutan, including 100 tons of longan rambutan. Eighty percent of rambutan are harvested during the rambutan season, which is the time when the prices stay at the lowest levels during a year.
In July and August, Chanh Thu Enterprise in Ben Tre province, prepared 25-30 tons of rambutan for Rong Do Company to export to the US. However, the plan has failed because the rambutans were believed to be uncompetitive in the US market, where the prices were very low.
The representative of Rong Do said that the company now expects to export out-of-season rambutan, believing that Vietnam only has the advantages in these products. Some companies have got the orders to export fresh rambutan to Europe and China, while two others in HCM City and Binh Duong province are planning to bring out-of-season rambutan to the US.
In fact, the demand for out-of-season rambutan is also very high from the domestic market, especially when 3-star and more luxurious hotels only accept the fruits which have GAP certificates.
However, the problem is that there are only 100-150 tons of out-of-season rambutan, harvested in September and October. Therefore, to date, the question of how to create GAP rambutan with reasonable prices for the US market still has not found the answer.
Too many rivals
Thailand has been well known as the oldest and biggest supplier of rambutan to the US market. Thai rambutans are mostly ronreng rambutants, which Vietnam does not have to export to the US. Thai products have been packed in paper boxes (3-5 kilos per box) which allows to preserve fruits in the best way, and they have been well known among the US consumers.
Mexican exporters are selling java, ronreng rambutans to the US. Since the growing areas are near the consumption hubs, which allows to save the transport and preservation fees, the products prove to be very competitive in the US market.
Besides, Malaysian and Indonesian have also joined the US market with java and ronreng rambutans.
Meanwhile, Vietnam plans to export java rambutan and make longan rambutans on the trial basis. Longan rambutant has high quality, but a problem has existed that the number of longan rambutant which have the same big size as java rambutant is modest, just 15-20 percent.
Longan rambutans are relatively expensive in the domestic market, which makes it unfeasible to collect fruits on the domestic market for export at competitive prices.
Out-of-season fruits could be the answer
Experts believe that Vietnam will not be able to compete with normal rambutants during the seasons in the US market. The only solution for Vietnamese exporters is to sell out-of-season rambutants, if the market has demands and accepts high prices.
A Vietnamese export company believes that the retail of out-of-season java rambutan could be high up to 15 dollars per kilo, or 300,000 dong per kilo. Meanwhile, the prices of normal rambutants from Mexico (transported by land) are just 3.5 dollars per kilo, and the exports from Guatemala, shipped by air, are priced at just 5.5-6 dollars per kilo.
Director of Chanh Thu Company, Nguyen Thi Hong Thu, has affirmed that Cho Lach’s rambutan is better than Thai or Indonesian products, and that only Vietnam has out-of-season rambutant, while others don’t have.