Developing close links between stakeholders involved in fruit production and consumption is one of the measures required to sustainably develop fruit production in the Cuu Long (Mekong) River Delta, a forum heard last week.

The delta, which has conducive climatic and soil conditions for fruits, has more than 466ha of orchards that yield 4.6 million tonnes of fruits annually, accounting for 62 percent of the country's total output, according to the National Agriculture Extension Centre.

The region has in recent years developed zones for growing specialty fruits like Hoa Loc Mango in Dong Thap, dragon fruit in Tien Giang province, Nam Roi pomelo in Vinh Long, and green skin pomelo in Ben Tre, ensuring a stable source for local consumption and exports and significantly improving farmers' incomes, Phan Huy Thong, the centre's director, said.

But fruit production and distribution in the region still face many problems, with farmers often hit by falling prices in case of bumper crops, delegates said.

Besides, the small scale and scattered nature of farming, huge post-harvest losses, inconsistent quality, unreliable outlets, diseases, and lack of tie-ups with businesses threaten sustainable development, they said.

The small scale of production precludes mechanisation and the region is unable to supply large quantities with similar size, colour and quality for exports, they said.

According to the Southern Fruit Research Institute, 90 percent of the region's fruit output is consumed in the domestic market, with only the rest exported, mainly to China.

Other markets like the US, EU and Japan have approved import of a few Vietnamese fruits like dragon fruit, pomelo, banana and rambutan.

These market have a large demand and offer higher prices, but also have strict hygiene and food safety requirements, it said.

To sustainably develop fruit farming, each province should restructure production and link up production and consumption, delegates agreed.

Local agricultural extension centres should ensure farmers use good agricultural practice (GAP) standards to add value to their fruits and enable exports to choosy markets, they said.

Proper planting techniques should be adopted to control diseases, they said.

Nguyen Van Hoa, director of the Southern Fruit Research Institute, said training is needed for human resources, especially those who analyse fruit production and demand.

Global fruit demand is expected to continue rising in the coming years, giving the region an opportunity to boost exports, he said.

The forum, organised by the National Agriculture Extension Centre on May 31, saw nearly 500 policymakers, scientists, business executives, and farmers from the delta take part.-VNA