Vietnam strives to export more succulent litchis to mainland
HANOI — Facing a lean harvest but enjoying good prices, Vietnam’s litchi growing hub is intensifying cultivation of the succulent fruit in accordance with international standards, and exporting half of its output to China.
In June, an official from Bac Giang’s Bureau of Agriculture and Rural Development said that the northern province is encouraging more local farmers to grow litchi trees according to GlobalGAP or VietGAP, and promoting the fruit both at home and abroad.
VietGAP is the Vietnamese version of GlobalGAP (Good Agricultural Practices), a vol- untary audit which verifies that fruit and vegetables are produced as safely as possible to minimize risks of microbial food safety hazards.
“On June 8, we held a litchi sales promotion conference in Pingxiang in South China’s Guangxi Zhuang autonomous region. We hope that in Guangxi, our special ‘thieu’ litchi will win consumers’ hearts,” said the official.
This year, Bac Giang is maintaining export of both fresh and processed litchi, said Duong Van Thai, vice-chairman of the provincial People’s Committee, noting that most of the fresh litchi is exported to China.
Some 40,000 tons of fresh litchi, or 80 percent of the fruit’s output earmarked for export this year, will go to China. Other export markets include other Asian countries like Japan, South Korea and Singapore, and some faraway ones, including the United States and Australia.
Luc Ngan district, Bac Giang’s biggest litchi growing area, is forecast to produce some 100,000 tons of litchi in 2017, down one-third compared to 2016, said Cao Van Hoan, vice-chairman of the Luc Ngan People’s Committee.
“During last year’s litchi harvest, I bought and resold 900 tons of litchi, but the figure this year can be halved, although the Chinese demand is very high,” a middle-aged woman said, pointing to the succulent fruit piled up in her roadside warehouse in Luc Ngan.
With chubby rosy cheeks, Nguyen Thi Hoai from the district’s Phuong Son commune, on the morning of June 12 was as busy as a bee driving a hard bargain with litchi growers, and directing her staff to weigh the fruit packed in cylindrical crates made of wood or iron.
“During this litchi harvest, my husband and I are buying 15-18 tons a day, at prices of around 40,000 Vietnamese dong ($1.8) a kilogram on average. During last year’s crop, prices were around 30,000 Vietnamese dong ($1.3),” Hoai said.
The local trader attributed the price hike to this year’s bad crop due to unfavorable weather conditions.
“Litchi trees need cold weather to blossom, but this year is too hot. Besides, when the fruit was taking shape, heavy downpours tore their skins,” said Giap Van Truong, who sold nearly 50 kilograms of litchi to Hoai on the morning of June 12.
In a threadbare military uniform, Truong from Bac Giang’s Luc Nam district looked like a demobilized soldier, but he has been a genuine farmer for years, growing over 800 big litchi trees.
“Last year, I harvested 15 tons of litchi. But this year, the output will be only four or five tons,” he bemoaned, but showing no desperation.
Besides Bac Giang, litchis are grown in the two other northern provinces of Hai Duong and Hung Yen.
In Vietnam’s northern Lang Son province bordering China, many shops-cum-warehouses can store 500-1,000 tons of fruit, mostly litchi and longan, each. Every summer, one shop in the province’s Dong Dang border town sells, on average, 40 tons of fruit, local traders said.
“Our customers come mainly from Guangxi, Zhejiang, Fujian and Sichuan. They like dried litchi best, then longan pulp and longan,” said Bui Thi Men from Hung Yen, who has worked as a fruit trader in the border town’s Day Thep area for years.
Vietnam farmers wait to sell their litchi fruit to local traders at the market in Luc Ngan district in Vietnam’s northern province of Bac Giang.
Chinese tourists shop at a Kazakhstan store in the China-Kazakhstan Khorgos Frontier International Cooperation Center.