Nguyen Minh Chau, former director of the Southern Fruit Research Institute, spoke with Tin Tuc (News) newspaper about scientific advances being made in the Mekong Delta.

*What is the fruit potential of the Cuu Long (Mekong) Delta?

Nam Bo region, in the South, has great potential. Thanks to its tropical climate, the region can produce many types of fruits all year around, including mangoes, dragon fruit, star apple, litchi, star fruit, jack fruit, bananas and mangosteen.

In recent years, most of Vietnam's tropical fruit exports came from this region, but they are still modest.

*Many of our fruits are in a class of their own, especially star apple, the Nam Roi pomelo and durians, yet our export volume remains modest. Why?

There are three main factors attributing to the problem. First, we don't have specialised areas for growing. Second, our packaging industry is not fully developed. And finally, we are weak at marketing our products.

These factors have weakened our advantages over such countries as Thailand, which is way ahead of us in marketing strategy.

In Vietnam in the last 20 years, two fruit-research institutes have been established, one in My Tho (in the Me Kong Delta) and the other in Gia Lam (Hanoi). The Rice Research Institute was established much earlier, in 1978.

Another factor that limits our development is a continual shortage of money. And that's not all. Poor cooperation between agencies has also led to the slow introduction of advanced technology in fruit production.

*So in your opinion, how can we add value to our fruit?

First, more attention is needed in the development of fruit trees by the Ministry of Agriculture and Rural Development and its provincial agencies.

Second, it is imperative to concentrate on growing fruit that Vietnam produces better than other countries.

Third, we must have a specific plan on who does what and what policies to follow.

Fourth, the Government should support investors, packaging agents, and institutes conducting research on fruit processing.

Fifth, cooperatives serve as a bridge linking farmers to Government. The Government should buy fruit wholesale from farmers and re-sell it to consumers at reasonable prices.

And finally, we have to promote the application of Good Agriculture Practices (GAP).

In addition, we have to consolidate the linkage between research institutes and agricultural extension activities, between production and consumption.

In my opinion, the central government and local authorities should play the key role in coordinating all these activities.

*You worked for many years at the Southern Fruit Research Institute before retiring. What research did the institute carry out that helped increase the value of our fruit?

The institute has done quite a good job in improving the value of our fruit. For example, by curing greening disease and the application of Good Agricultural Practices in growing fruit for export.

Other successful research conducted by our institute was the introduction of red-fleshed dragon fruits, seedless cam sanh (Vietnamese traditional oranges) and seedless pomelos.

But the most successful work has been the training of many generations of scientists. We have also conducted many joint research projects with foreign institutes from Japan, France, New Zealand, Australia, India and Taiwan.

The institute continues to introduce high quality fruit species to help farmers.-VNA