Ben Tre province, the country's largest coconut cultivation area, plans to grow an additional 10,000ha of coconut trees in areas affected by climate change to 2020.

The trees will be planted in erosion-prone areas as well as sites affected by high salinity and brackish water, mostly in the three coastal districts of Ba Tri, Binh Dai and Thanh Phu, according to the Ben Tre Coconut Association.

Ho Vinh Sang, the association's chairman, said farmers will earn more profits with coconuts than with fruits, rice and vegetables in these areas, even though the yield of coconuts in the three districts is lower than in other districts.

The fibrous root system of the trees would also help prevent land erosion, he said.

The Cuu Long ( Mekong ) Delta province has a total of 60,000ha of coconut trees, accounting for 40 percent of the country's coconut cultivation area. Of that figure, 13 percent are coconut varieties sold for their juice, and the rest for their flesh.

The province's average yield is 9,700 coconuts per ha a year, 1,400 coconuts per ha higher than the country's average yield, according to the association.

Traders who harvest the whole dry coconuts at farmers' gardens can buy them for 80,000-85,000 VND a dozen. However, if the farmers harvest the coconuts, traders must pay a higher price.

In recent years, local authorities have encouraged farmers to inter-crop cacao trees with coconut trees to increase income. They have also been urged to breed blue-legged giant prawns in ponds in their coconut orchards. About 150 households that routinely grow coconut trees have been breeding shrimp on 20ha in Giong Trom and Mo Cay districts.

Bui Van Len in Mo Cay's Hiep Phuoc commune said last year he earned a profit of 7 million VND (330 USD) from breeding 500 blue-legged giant prawns in a 500 sq.m pond in his coconut orchard.

The province's Agriculture and Fisheries Extension Centre has also provided farmers with advanced techniques to breed giant prawns.-VNA