The third Coconut Festival opened on April 5 in the Mekong Delta's province of Ben Tre with several cultural activities to honour the area's native fruit.

The opening ceremony for the five-day festival took place on a floating stage on Truc Giang Lake in Ben Tre City, with the participation of more than 5,000 local residents, coconut farmers and representatives from provinces planting coconut trees in the country.

High officials seen at the ceremony were Vice President Nguyen Thi Doan and Laos 's Deputy Prime Minister Somsavat Lengsavad.

The vice president encouraged Ben Tre and other provinces to expand the cultivation area of coconut trees, invest more factories for coconut processing.

"Coconut trees not only bring economic value, but contribute to the climate change adaptation, so scientists need to pay more attention on this purpose from planting the tree," she said, adding that market for the products from the tree should be expanded.

The vice president, who expressed happiness to see the development of the province, also urged scientists to improve research to arrive at a better coconut strain, which can help increase the income of farmers. Developing craft villages for tourism development will also create more jobs.

Nguyen Van Hieu, chairman of the province's People's committee, said coconut tree has become an important part of income to several households in the province. There have been hundreds kind of products made from the trees.

During the past years, coconut price dropped but local farmers keep investing in their coconut farm. The tree is not only a cultural icon, but an economic advantage of the province, Hieu said.

The festival includes an art installation for a coconut road, coconut food festival, coconut plantation tour and a coconut carnival celebrating the future of coconuts as well as a seminar on how to increase the value of coconut products and a ceremony to honour coconut farmers. A beauty contest, the Miss Coconut Land , will also take place.

High quality products in agriculture, industry, aquaculture, garments and textiles, and construction material will be featured at the festival.

Held by the provincial People's Committee under the direction of the Ministry of Culture, Sports and Tourism, the festival is timed to coincide with the 50th anniversary of Dong Khoi Ben Tre, or the uprising of local residents against the US-backed Sai Gon regime.

The event also offers businesspeople and investors an opportunity to access the economic potential of the province for eco-tourism, historical and cultural relics, and particularly, coconut products.

More than 250 booths display coconut products and demonstrate techniques of coconut breeding, harvesting and processing.

Coconut trees are meaningful to the economic life of residents in Ben Tre. More than 500,000 people of the province's total population of 1.3 million live on work related to the tree.

Ben Tre has the largest area of coconut farms in the country, at 53,000 hectares.

Last year, 420 million coconuts were harvested, contributing half of the country's coconut yield.

The revenue of products related to coconut trees contributes up to 40 percent of the province's export turnover.

Coconut-related products in the province have been exported to 60 countries and territories.-VNA