Coconut farming remains languishing hinh anh 1Illustrative image (Source: VNA)
HCM City (VNA) - Exports of coconut-based products are sluggish due to challenges and difficulties facing the coconut processing industry and coconut cultivation, according to the Agricultural Promotion Centre of the Mekong Delta province of Ben Tre.

A study by the centre found that coconut farmers earn on average 60-70 million VND per hectare annually, but this could increase to 100-110 million VND if coconut is intercropped with cocoa, pomelo or shrimp farming.

The central province of Binh Dinh is the third largest coconut growing area in the country behind the Mekong provinces of Ben Tre and Tra Vinh.

Here, coconut farmers have benefitted from a steady rise in prices since 2015. Now dried coconuts sell for 9,000-10,000 VND each while fresh coconut milk is sold for 13,000-14,000 VND at groves.

Nguyen An Diem, a former chairman and CEO of the Binh Dinh-headquartered firm Pisico, said in Asian countries with developed coconut processing industries such as Sri Lanka and the Philippines, the trees offer high economic value because all segments of the industry, from farming to processing, have been modernised.

Diem said coconut meat is exported from Vietnam to European countries where it is processed into ice cream, milk and chocolate, the fibre is sold to Japan for making automobile seat cushions, and shell dippers can be used to make activated carbon, which fetches millions of VND per kilogramme.

The timber is used for making handicraft products, he said.

Though coconut yields are high, the processing industry has not developed much, and thus Vietnam exports raw materials, which do not fetch high prices.

Nguyen Dang Phu, deputy head of the Ministry of Industry and Trade-run Research Institute for Oil and Oil Plants, said one hectare in Vietnam produces 9,863 coconuts or 1.9 tonnes of copra per year, the highest in Asia.

But its coconut export turnover is only worth a third to a fifth of other countries’, he said.

A coconut fetches 8,000 VND, but products made from it are valued at up to 40,000 VND, he said.

No investment has been made in building coconut processing plants to manufacture high-value products, he added.

To enhance the value of coconut-based products, authorities should have policies to mobilise investments in plants, Diem said.

He said many enterprises want to invest in such plants, but hesitate because of the realisation they would face raw material shortages since coconut groves are small in size and scattered around the country. 

More investment is required for research into coconut strains and processing and agricultural promotion activities.

The Government should provide financial support to farmers for acquiring new strains and technologies, he said, suggesting that coconut co-operatives must be strengthened and alliances must be established in the farming and processing sectors.

Brand names must be developed for Vietnamese coconut and promoted, he added.-VNA