Mango prices have slumped 50 from last month after rumors surfaced that farmers are afraid to eat their own fruit due to safety concerns.
A kilogram of Cat Chu, a specialty of Dong Thap Province, now sells at only VND15,000 (US$0.67), Tran Hoang Dan, who runs the province’s largest fruit wholesale facility, said.
Farmers said the media has reported that the bags typically used to wrap the fruits in an effort to improve their color and appearance are of “dubious origin.”
The rumor was first spread in May 2015, prompting the Dong Thap agriculture department to look into the issue, according to the department's deputy director Nguyen Thanh Tai.
“All tests have shown that there is nothing abnormal with the Taiwanese bags and the quarantine processes applied to the mangos as rumored,” Tai said.
The official added that Dong Thap exports thousands of metric tons of its mangos to Japan, Russia, the Republic of Korea (RoK), and New Zealand on an annual basis, with no shipment failing to pass quarantine.
On May 4, the administration of Tien Giang Province, where mango farmers suffered from the same hearsay, also tasked relevant agencies with probing the case to assist growers.
Do Van Phuoc, head of Tien Giang’s market surveillance agency, said that importers of the Taiwanese bags have all the necessary paperwork and that the bags are not banned from being imported as per Vietnamese law.
Dr. Vo Huu Thoai, deputy head of the Southern Fruit Research Institute, said wrapping fruits before harvest is a modern technique used widely around the world.
The expert said the bags help protect the fruits from pests, birds, and diseases and keep the skin color bright. The wrapping is also meant to limit the effect of insecticides on the fruits and make them ready for consumption, he added.
Such techniques have been used in Japan for over a century, and Taiwan and China began to follow suit more than 50 years ago, according to Tai, the department's deputy director in Dong Thap.
“Nearly 100% of the 9,000 hectare mango crops in Dong Thap apply this technique,” he said. “RoK and Russian companies that have plants in the province and source mangos from local farmers also request that the fruits be wrapped before harvest.”