Thousands of people flocked to Ho Chi Minh City 's Suoi Tien park for the annual Southern Fruit Festival that opened on June 1.

The festival began with art performances and parades by Cambodian, Lao, Malaysian, Thailand and Indonesian artists in the presence of more than 20 foreign diplomats based in the city.

During the three weeks of the festival, a floating fruit market with 70 boats will be re-created, there will be a contest for best fruits, farmers and artisans will match their talents in a contest for making things from fruits, and a "safe and delicious fruit" display will be set up by nearly 600 artisans from 21 provinces and cities.

The festival seeks to showcase the wide range of fruits grown in the south, promote reputed brands, and honour Vietnamese farmers.

At the opening ceremony, Hua Ngoc Thuan, deputy chairman of the city People's Committee, said the festival showcased the variety of Vietnamese fruits, especially those grown in the Cuu Long (Mekong) Delta, for foreign tourists and promoted the city's image.

The fruit contest has attracted more than 850 varieties of 11 kinds of fruits.

It is expected to provide an opportunity to promote linkages between farmers and processors, and encourage the use of technology in growing fruits.

"I hope this festival will contribute to promoting southern fruits and Vietnamese fruits in general," Thuan said.

Besides popular varieties, some 300 rarer ones will also be on display.

More than 1,500 tonnes of fruits were sold at last year's festival.

With the display and sales of fruits expected to continue for a total of three months, the organisers expect more than 1.6 million visitors.

The annual event, organised by the city's departments of Culture, Sports and Tourism, and Agriculture and Rural Development, began in 2004.-VNA