Nichirei Corp. will establish a research farm for acerola, a fruit rich in vitamin C, in southern Vietnam by April 2012 to help increase local harvests and beef up its supplies to beverage producers.

The research farm will be set up in Tien Giang province and operated by a joint venture between Nichirei, which owns an 83 percent stake, and a local business, the Japanese daily Nikkei reported, adding that the Japanese firm will invest 40-50 million JPY (521,000-651,000 USD)in the project, including the capital for the joint venture.

Efforts to improve breeding will be made at the roughly 1.2 hectare site to increase acerola's vitamin C content and harvest. Seedlings will be supplied to farmers that grow the fruit on Nichirei's behalf, together with cultivation instructions.

In light of growing Japanese and European demand for the fruit for use in drinks, Nichirei aims to help turn Vietnam into a big acerola producer on a par with Brazil. It plans to double its yearly purchases of acerola ingredients in Vietnam to 10,000 tonnes by fiscal 2015.

According to Nikkei, Nichirei Corp. is the world's top acerola ingredient supplier. It aims to boost sales to 5 billion JPY by fiscal 2015, up 40 percent from fiscal 2010./.