Vietnam farmers rush to grow red dragon fruit for higher profit

LONG AN - Farmers in the southern province of Long An, which farms the most dragon fruit in Viet Nam, are cutting down the white flesh dragon fruit to plant red flesh dragon fruit, aiming to get a higher profit.

In Chau Thanh district, the main dragon fruit plantation in the region, the area for planting red dragon fruit has increased sharply in recent year, whereas before it only planted white dragon fruit.

Vo Van Thong, a local farmer, said he had cut down one hectare of the white dragon fruit to plant red fruit.

Many farmers across the district are also cutting down white dragon fruits even if they are growing well.

Chairman of the district People's Committee, Nguyen Van Thinh, said many households are destroying crops of white dragon fruit to rush to cultivate red dragon fruit.

The price of white flesh dragon fruit is at VND10,000 (US$0.4) per kilo while red flesh dragon fruit is at about VND55,000 ($2.4) per kilo, he said.

According to the report of the district agriculture sector, the area of rice and other crops fell by 3,100ha by the end of 2015.

The area of dragon fruit farms is nearly 5,500ha, in which 2,500ha for red flesh dragon fruit, with 12,000 local households joining in cultivation.

In 2015, the district harvested 102,000 tonnes of fruit, increasing by 30 per cent compared with 2014, earning VND500-700 million per ha.

Nguyen Than Ai, director of the Viet Fruit Flavour Company, said the local farmers were rushing to grow red flesh dragon fruit despite low output in cultivation.

But the growers still want to plant red dragon fruit because of the high demand of the market and they also easily earn more money, according to Ai.

However, the farmers have to invest more capital and care in farming.

Head of Tam Vu Dragon Fruit Co-operation, Truong Quang An, said his co-operative had 60ha of dragon fruit and mostly exported to Thailand and China, but only the Chinese market favoured red flesh dragon fruit.

Sometimes, the red flesh dragon fruit priced at VND70,000 per kg, gaining higher profit than rice and white dragon fruit, he explained.

"So it is hard to convince farmers to continue planting white flesh dragon fruit," he added.

Planting each ha of red flesh dragon fruit costs a lot of money, about VND200 million or more to harvest after 10 to 12 months.

The People's Committee has warned farmers about the consequences and difficulties of massive replacement.

The situation is similar in Tien Giang Province. Many households in Cho Gao district are preparing to plant red flesh dragon fruit.

"The cost for red dragon fruit cultivation is high while the taste of Chinese market could be fickle," she said.

The dragon growers would easily fall into a difficult condition if the price dropped due to the instablilty of the market, said Vo Van Van, head of the agriculture and rural development office in Chau Thanh District.