Workers husk mature coconuts in Ben Tre province. (Photo: VNA)
 
HCM City (VNS/VNA) – Provinces in the Mekong Delta that grow coconut are setting up cooperative teams and finding buyers to help farmers recover from low prices over the last 12 months.

The delta has about 130,000ha of coconut, accounting for nearly 79 percent of the country’s total. Ben Tre and Tra Vinh provinces have the largest coconut areas in the delta.

As prices have been very low for around a year, coconut farmers are making little profits.

The price of mature coconuts in Ben Tre and Tra Vinh is currently between 20,000 VND and 45,000 VND (85 US cents–1.9 USD) per dozen, compared to about 80,000 VND per dozen last year.

Nguyen Huu Lap, Vice Chairman of the Ben Tre Province People’s Committee, said the province was building a coconut value chain to improve incomes.

The province has set up cooperative teams and cooperatives that now have a combined 2,139 households that plant 1,600ha of coconuts. Companies have guaranteed outlets for the coconut output of these households.

The provincial Department of Agriculture and Rural Development in cooperation with agencies is acting as a link to connect farmers and companies.

Three Ben Tre-based companies, Luong Quoi Coconut Co., Ltd, Ben Tre Import and Export Joint Stock Corporation (BETRIMEX), and Asia Coconut Processing Joint Stock Company, have promised to buy coconuts from farmers with contracts at a minimum price of 50,000 VND (2.1 USD) per dozen for mature coconuts.

Since last year, the three companies have purchased 10.5 million mature coconuts and 217 tonnes of fresh mature coconut meat from farmers.

According to Nguyen Van Tron, head of the Hung Le commune cooperative team to renovate coconut orchards in Ben Tre’s Giong Trom district, the cooperative has 59 members who grow a total of 62ha under organic farming methods.

All coconut output of the cooperative teams is purchased by BETRIMEX.

“Participating in this co-operation model, coconut farmers now have many advantages, including guaranteed outlets and stable prices.”

The organic farming method, which has helped improve the soil, does not pollute the environment.

Huynh Quang Duc, Deputy Director of Ben Tre province’s Department of Agriculture and Rural Development, said that it was important to raise awareness of farmers about coconut value chains, and that farmers should use advanced techniques to improve yield and quality.

Ben Tre has more than 72,000ha of coconut with annual output of more than 600 million nuts, accounting for 42 percent of the country’s total area, the country’s largest coconut producer, according to the provincial Department of Agriculture and Rural Development.

Of the province’s coconut area, 80 percent are planted to harvest mature coconuts, while the rest is for young coconuts that can be used for drinking.

Coconut farmers in Ben Tre have an average income of 68 million VND (2,910 USD) per hectare a year.

Tra Vinh has nearly 20,000ha of coconut, second to Ben Tre. The province has identified coconut is one of its key agricultural trees. The province is applying advanced farming techniques and developing markets.

Starting this year to 2020, it will spend more than 12 billion VND (514,000 USD) for coconut varieties that can survive in drought and saltwater intrusion, as well as for assistance to farmers who grow coconut under Vietnamese Good Agricultural Practices (VietGAP) standards.

Pham Minh Truyen, Deputy Director of Tra Vinh province’s Department of Agriculture and Rural Development, said the province would use available resources to help coconut processors diversify their products.

It would call for investors to build a plant to produce canned coconut water, coconut powder, and handicraft products made from coconuts, he said.- VNS/VNA