A worker takes care of young macadamia trees at a nursery in Son La province. (Photo: danviet.vn​)
 
Son La (VNA) - As an ideal location for tropical trees that require high humidity, the northern mountainous province of Son La plans to cultivate macadamia trees on 1,000 ha by 2020.

The province has been planting these trees since 2000 on a trial basis, and now has 100 ha on which macadamia is grown, mainly in the districts of Van Ho, Moc Chau, Mai Son and Thuan Chau, as well as Son La city.

Provincial authorities said that some macadamia planting models have given higher yields than others. They see it as a supplementary crop, suited to local soil and climate conditions, that can increase income and employment in the province, attract investment and contribute to sustainable development.

Ha Thi Trang, a macadamia grower in Son La city’s Chieng Sinh district, said her 3,000sq.m garden has 150 trees planted under the pilot project.

"From the 10th year, I have been able to harvest the fruit regularly. Each tree yields about 30kg of nuts a year. But there are some trees with yields as high as 120kg of nuts each,” Trang told Nong Thon Ngay Nay (Countryside Today).

The price of fresh macadamia nuts ranges from 150,000 to 200,000 VND (6.6 to 8.8 USD) per kilo, she said. Current retail prices for processed macadamia nuts range between 300,000-360,000 VND in the domestic market.

“From 2010, I have reaped about 4 tonnes of nuts per crop per year,” Trang said.

There are several models of macadamia cultivation in the province that can bring regular yields like Trang’s garden, most of which have to do with inter-cropping.

A typical example is the macadamia garden at the provincial Labour Education Centre, which has 201 macadamia trees planted along with 3,000 coffee trees.

Ngo Thi Hau, the centre’s agricultural officer, said: "From 2015, we started to harvest with yields of nearly 1.8 tonnes of fresh nut. Each tree has produced about 20 to 35kg of nuts.

“The centre is focusing on further development with four varieties of macadamia seeds that have been approved by the Ministry of Agriculture and Rural Development (MARD).”

The centre has 5,000 seedlings, 80 percent of which can have high yields.

Growing macadamia with other crops like coffee and tea is considered a suitable model for the expanding cultivation of this tree in the province, according to Ha Quyet Nghi, director of provincial Agriculture and Rural Development Department.

The macadamia tree can support growth of the other plants, he explained.

“It is true that the macadamia tree not only uses less water but also retains it, and provides shade for the coffee plants to grow. A hundred macadamia trees can be planted on 1ha of coffee. The productivity of both trees will increase under this model and the farmer will earn more,” he said.

Nghi said that the province has chosen four varieties of macadamia seeds which are suited to its soil and climate.

“Given its economic potential, the province is planning to plant 1,000ha of macadamia trees by 2020, mainly intercropped with coffee and tea, and it will be cultivated in border localities with Laos like Thuan Chau, Yen Chau and Van Ho districts,” he said.

Last year, the farmers earned good incomes from macadamia and they did not have enough nuts to sell to enterprises, said Nghi.

"The province encourages businesses and farmers to join in planting and processing macadamia. The province will also have supporting policies for this,” said Lo Minh Hung, vice chairman of the provincial People’s Committee, adding that the province would also ensure the supply of good quality seeds.

However, Phi Hong Hai, deputy director of Vietnam Forest Science Institute, suggested that the macadamia should not be grown in areas affected by dry hot wind.

“In the development planning for macadamia, we have advised MARD to plan cultivation areas in the northwest and the Central Highlands.

Son La province can grow macadamia, however, it is necessary that suitable seeds and suitable land are selected for planting. I know that there are some areas with favorable climate conditions for planting this tree in the province but other areas affected by dry wind should not grow the tree,” Hai said.

He also raised concerns about product consumption.

“There are only a few processing factories in the country. The farmers will suffer losses when supply exceeds demand. Therefore, with target of 1,000ha of macadamia trees by 2020, it is necessary to draw up a plan to attract businesses to support consumption. The province also needs to help farmers in selling their products,” he said.

Nguyen Tri Ngoc, General Secretary of the Vietnam Agriculture and Rural Development Association, said: “The province also needs to have reasonable credit policies for growers. Strong support is needed from authorities at all levels, from commune, district to provincial levels, to help growers expand cultivation area, earn sufficient income and ensure sustainable development.” -VNA