Restructuring farming practices and ensuring stable outlets for citrus fruits are among measures required to sustainably develop citrus production, expects said at a recent forum in Tien Giang province.

Le Thanh Tung of the Cultivation Department said the southern region, which enjoys climatic and soil advantages, has large areas under fruit trees and is the country's premier fruit exporter.

In recent years the region's fruit production has grown significantly in terms of area, varieties, and output, with citrus fruits accounting for a significant share.

But the downside is that fruit production and consumption in the region still face many problems.

The small scale and scattered nature of farming, huge post-harvest losses, inconsistent quality, unreliable outlets, diseases, and lack of tie-ups between businesses and farmers threaten sustainable development.

The small scale of production precludes mechanisation, and since farmers grow many kinds of fruits in the same orchard, they are unable to supply large volumes with consistency in size, colour, and quality.

The region grows many varieties of citrus fruits like the green-skin pomelo, king orange, and seedless lemon that are in high demand in the world market, but does not have areas specialising in one or the other.

There is also a lack of quality packaging plants in the region.

There is no planning in growing fruits and farmers decide what to grow based on factors like a recent bumper crop, causing prices to be volatile.

To sustainably develop citrus farming in the south, each province should restructure production and develop coordination between production and consumption, Tung said.

Hoang Quoc Tuan, director of the Agriculture Planning and Design Institute, said farmers should increase application of good agricultural practice standards to raise the value of their fruits.

Authorities should think of consumption markets and set up packaging and processing factories when making zoning plans for citrus fruit development, he said.

They should work with supermarkets and other distributors to reduce intermediary costs involved in consumption, he added.

Nguyen Minh Chau, director of the Southern Fruit Research Institute, said localities should develop systems that can supply clean, high-quality citrus seedlings. Proper planting techniques should be adopted to control diseases, he said.-VNA