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Growers of Vietnam's bizarre fruits worry over fickle weather as Tet draws near

Friday, December 23, 2016, 15:00 GMT+7
Growers of Vietnam's bizarre fruits worry over fickle weather as Tet draws near
People pose with mangos with calligraphic texts in Dong Thap Province, located in southern Vietnam.

Fruit farmers specializing in unique and bizarre fruits typically grown for exclusive use during the Vietnamese Lunar New Year, or Tet, are under constant worry that the unpredictable weather hitting Vietnam over the past few weeks may affect their crops.

The upcoming Tet holiday will fall on January 28, and farmers are hurriedly preparing special fruit to supply Vietnamese religious offering and ornamental needs during the celebration.

With local consumers willing to open their wallets for bizarre and unique gift ideas, local farmers have been trying to cash in by growing fruit in unique shapes.

Though their success has led them to increase supplies and develop new products for the upcoming holidays, recent foul weather has had a significant impact on their business.

In the southern city of Can Tho, Tran Thanh Liem, known for growing watermelons in the shape of gold bullion, is pessimistic about his yield for Tet. After planting over 4,000 seeds this year, Liem expects a meager 1,000 crop harvest.

Liem said he received several large orders for the fruit, but only signed contracts to supply 100 pairs to two businesses out of fear that his final supply will fall below expectations.

A pair of 1.5kg gold bullion-shaped watermelons fetches VND2.5 million (US$112), and VND3 million ($134) for those weighing 2kg each.

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Similarly, growers of special grapefruits shaped like bottle gourds in An Giang Province also expect to see their yields drop compared to last Tet. Many said they will only be able to supply the market with 2,400 fruits compared to 10,000 last year.

To make up for the dwindling supply, farmers will introduce new products with calligraphic texts reading ‘fortune’ and ‘luck’ besides the bottle gourd shape.

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‘Phoenix pineapple’ growers are facing the same struggle. As the name suggests, the ‘phoenix pineapple’ has red inflorescence, making it look like the mythical bird.

Many Vietnamese believe that displaying this kind of fruit during Tet will bring them peace and luck.

However, Luu Van Luom, who is waiting to harvest his 1,000 phoenix pineapples, said bad weather will greatly affect his yield.  He expects only 60 to 70 percent of his crop to meet acceptable standards for sale.

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Huynh Thanh Tam, a farmer in Ben Tre Province known creating coconut with text imprints, is also unhappy with the recent weather.

Tam was able to sell 300 of his coconuts during last year’s Tet holiday and chose to increase this year’s crop to 2,000.

However, Tam is worried that the bad weather may reduce his final yield.

“The unusual rain at this time of year may cause the young coconuts to crack when put into moulds to have the text pressed onto their shells,” Tam said.

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Still, many farmers do not appear shaken by the unsettled weather.

Huynh Thanh Khoa, the ‘father’ of special mangos with skins bearing calligraphic texts such as ‘luck’, ‘longevity’ and ‘fortune’ decided to increase his supply by 5,000 fruits from 1,200 last year.

The Dong Thap-based farmer said he will introduce a new product this year - mangos that bear the Vietnamese map on their skins.

“Some partners in Hanoi and Ho Chi Minh City have placed orders for more than 1,000 mangos,” he said.

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