A number of dragon fruit growers and traders in the south-central province of Binh Thuan do not know what to do with their newly-harvested fruits except for dumping them by the roadsides in huge piles.
The red-skinned fruits with white flesh have been abandoned along the streets leading to the dragon fruit farms in Ham Thuan Nam District. Some local cattle farmers even treat their cows to the fruits, instead of their traditional grass.
Dragon fruit, or pitaya, is a fruit of cactus species with leathery, slightly leafy skin. Its flesh is full of black, crunchy seeds like that of the kiwis. The flesh has low calories and is eaten raw, tasting mildly sweet.
Dragon fruit growers are yielding a booming crop this year, but prices have constantly tumbled over the last month, forcing them to dispose of the fruit as selling it would only lead to heavier losses, they lamented.
Good-looking and high-quality dragon fruits sold for only VND4,000 (US$0.19) a kilogram on Monday, a 50 percent slump compared to the same period last year. Those of smaller size fetched a mere VND2,000 a kilogram, while the fruits with the lowest quality were almost given for free, selling at VND1,000 a kilogram.
Growers said the dumped fruits are those that are not so good-looking, though they remain edible.
“We used to be able to sell them for a few thousand dong a kilogram last year, but VND1,000 is a throwaway rate,” they said.
Growers are not the only to suffer from selling the products at dirt cheap prices, as traders who bought from farmers to sell to China are hurt by the plunging prices too.
Le Thi Ngoc, who runs a fruit trading facility in Ham Thuan Nam, said she was forced by her Chinese partners to sell dragon fruits at only VND9,000 a kilogram, whereas she had sourced them from farmers at VND8,000.
“Fruit businesses like me have incurred losses worth billions of dong during this time,” she lamented.
The VND1,000 per kilogram profit is not enough to cover labor, transportation, and many other costs to bring the fruits to China, Ngoc said.
“They have no choice but to dump the fruits to the street.”
In Ho Chi Minh City, dragon fruit is available at markets citywide at around VND15,000 a kilogram, down VND7,000 a kilogram from a week earlier.
The fruits are also on sale along some busy streets, at below VND10,000 a kilogram.