|A dragon fruit processing chain at the Lavifood factory in Long An province (Photo: VNA)
Speaking at a meeting with farmers and businesses in the Mekong Delta province of Long An on February 11 to discuss measures to resolve difficulties caused by the novel coronavirus epidemic, Cuong said the country has 60,000ha under dragon fruit, which yield three million tonnes a year and fetching nearly 2 billion USD from exports.
In the Long An province’s Chau Thanh district alone, all agricultural lands are now under the fruit.
But he also pointed to limitations like mainly exporting fresh fruits and relying too much on the Chinese market.
So the dragon fruit segment in particular and the agricultural sector in general needs to restructure, especially in the context of the epidemic, he said.
“This is a good opportunity for major dragon fruit cultivation areas such as Binh Thuan, Long An and Tien Giang to review the entire production process to restructure it and persuade businesses to participate in organising production and processing chains of the fruits.
“Besides continuing exports to traditional markets, we also need to seek more new export markets.
“Businesses must pay greater attention to the domestic market of 100 million population.”
They need to develop close links with farmers so that the latter can grow products that meet the demand in global markets and enterprises must upgrade their processing chain to improve quality, he said.
Farmers have begun harvesting dragon fruit, but exports to China, the largest market for it, has plummeted due to the impact of the epidemic.
“We will firstly seek measures to ensure farmers’ products are consumed and then proceed to comprehensive restructuring of agriculture in order to add more value to our agricultural products and ensure a better life for farmers,” Cuong added.
Dang Ngoc Can, General Director of Lavifood JSC, said: “We specialise in processing fruits and vegetables for exports to fastidious markets such as South Korea, Japan, the US and the EU. To help reduce farmers’ difficulties due to the impact of the epidemic, we have increased the purchase of dragon fruit and process it into various products such as juice, dried fruit, soft-dried fruits, and frozen products.
“A new product line, the 'We Love' fresh and natural dragon fruit juice, is about to be launched in the market.
“To do this, we had to completely change our business plan for 2020.”
Lavifood on February 11 signed an agreement with the Saigon Commercial Joint Stock Bank, Saigon Co.op [owner of Co.opmart supermarket] and Green Start-up Fund to support farmers.
At a working session with Cuong, Long An province authorities called for subsidising electricity costs for cold storages until the end of March to businesses that buy, preserve and export agricultural produce and provide them loans at preferential interest rates to facilitate their purchase of dragon fruits from farmers.
The province also wanted the ministry to establish a distribution centre for agricultural produce in China and connect major dragon fruit-growing localities to avoid sudden increases in output.