Although Vietnam has only been exporting durians to China via official channels since September of this year, it could soon give Thailand – the largest exporter of the fruit to China – a run for its money.
The volume of durians ordered by China, the world’s largest importer of durians, has doubled Vietnam’s output, sending durian prices surging.
Many local farmers and enterprises are looking to get in on the action by investing in durian farms and restructuring their farming process to meet the demands of Chinese importers.
Farmers prepare big business
Fresh durians were priced at VND65,000-75,000 (US$2.6-3) per kilogram on Tuesday, a 20-percent increase compared to two months prior and a 200-percent jump compared to the same period last year.
Bay Mung, the owner of a durian garden in Cai Lay District, Tien Giang Province, said his family has harvested five tonnes of the fruit so far this season.
“I sell high-quality durians for VND75,000 [$3] per kilogram and low-quality ones for VND65,000 [$2.6] per kilogram. So far I’ve earned over VND300 million [$12,074],” Mung said.
According to the Tien Giang Department of Agriculture and Rural Development, the price surge mainly results from the export of durians to the Chinese market through official channels.
To take full advantage of the market, the department asked local farmers to improve their product quality and apply intensive farming techniques.
Moreover, the local agriculture sector has begun to focus on training and the transference of modern farming techniques to residents.
Tien Giang currently has 17,000 hectares of durian plantations, mainly in Cai Lay District, Cai Be District, and Cai Lay Town.
In the Central Highlands, Pham Anh Tuan, chairman of the fruit cooperative of Krong Pak District, Dak Lak Province, said over 1,000 hectares of durian plantations capable of producing 20,000 tonnes of the fruit have been granted 16 planting area codes.
|A farmer in Krong Pak District, Dak Lak Province harvests durians for export. Photo: The The / Tuoi Tre|
The planting codes allow for careful monitoring by regulators so that they can ensure quality farming standards.
Large orders from China
Vu Ngoc Huy, deputy general director of Dung Thai Son Export-Import Trading JSC, shared that his company recently received an order from China for 500,000 tonnes of durians.
Certified durian growing areas fail to meet the demand, so the company hopes to acquire planting codes for an additional 3,000-5,000 hectares.
According to the Plant Protection Department under the Ministry of Agriculture and Rural Development, after the ministry and the General Administration of Customs of China signed a protocol on the official export of Vietnamese durians to China, local enterprises have registered to ship 1.3 million tonnes of durians per year to the neighboring country, double Vietnam’s current annual capacity of 670,000 tonnes.
Since September, around 30,000 tonnes of Vietnamese durians have been sent to China via official channels.
Nguyen Dinh Tung, general director of Vina T&T Group, said that his company is developing durian farms and will export durians to China in the near future.
Vietnam has great soil and a fantastic geographical location, allowing its durians to compete with those from Thailand, the largest exporter to China.
“As for its geographical position, compared to Thailand, Vietnam is closer to China. It takes us just four days to transport durians from Vietnam to China, while it takes Thailand seven days," Tung said.
“The long transport time affects the quality of the durians, not to mention Vietnam’ favorable soil and climate conditions.
“However, our potential is dependent on our farming and distribution abilities, as well as how we ensure quality.
"[Local enterprises] should do business in a systematic manner to ensure the sustainability of our potential."
Advantages over Thailand
China imported some 820,000 tonnes of durians valued at $4.2 billion last year, soaring 42.7 percent year on year.
Thailand is currently the largest exporter of durians to China.
Despite being late to the game, Vietnam can increase its market share and overtake Thailand if it is able to leverage its advantages and organize its farming in a professional and systematic manner, according to experts.
Dang Phuc Nguyen, general secretary of the Vietnam Fruit Association, said China is the largest buyer of durians in the world.
In spite of exporting durians to China later than Thailand, Vietnam still has potential to take over the Chinese market.
As Vietnam and China border each other, it takes just 1.5-two days to transport goods to China’s traditional wet markets.
The short transport time and low costs can help Vietnamese durians compete with products from other countries.
Over the next several years, when Vietnam has more certified durian planting areas and packaging units, Vietnamese durians may create a wave in the Chinese market.
With more than 20 years of experience in exporting agricultural products to China, Nguyen Thi Thanh Thuc, chairwoman of Bagico JSC based in northern Bac Giang Province, said Vietnam has more advantages in traffic and logistics than Thailand when shipping durians to China.
“For road transport, Vietnam will be at least one day faster than Thailand. In addition, Vietnamese durians are fresher and riper than Thailand’s [durians],” Thuc noted.
Furthermore, Vietnam can harvest durians for nine to 10 months per year, while durians in Thailand can only be harvested for four to six months.
Nguyen from the Vietnam Fruit Association emphasized that Vietnam is fully capable of overtaking Thailand in the Chinese market.
However, farmers and enterprises must strictly comply with the market’s requirements and develop certified planting areas and packaging units.
Still, competition from Thailand is tough as the country seeks to create new high-quality varieties of durians and novel methods to process the fruit.
“I have visited Thailand and found that it has packaged durians like we package yogurt. Vietnam should learn from Thailand in order to develop its products,” Nguyen said.
Vietnam has more advantages than Thailand but still has shortcomings, including having no promotion plans for durians, Thuc said.
For example, European consumers prefer Vietnam’s Ri6 durians to Thailand’s Monthong.
“Vietnam is inferior to Thailand in the professionalism and production scale. In Thailand’s durian farming areas, the quality of durians is outstanding,” Thuc said.
Thousands of hectares of durians to be granted planting area codes
Nguyen Hac Hien, deputy head of the Sub-Department of Cultivation and Plant Protection of Dak Lak Province, said the province is now home to over 15,000 hectares of durians, accounting for 17.6 percent of the country’s total durian acreage.
|Durians are put up for sale on Nguyen Tri Phuong Street in District 5, Ho Chi Minh City, November 22, 2022. Photo: Tu Trung / Tuoi Tre|
The General Administration of Customs of China has approved 76 codes, including 51 growing area codes and 25 packaging unit codes, for Vietnam.
Of the total, Dak Lak has 23 durian farms with a total acreage of 1,500 hectares granted planting area codes and four packaging unit codes.
The province is completing procedures for the granting of planting area codes for nearly 1,500 hectares of durians, raising Dak Lak’s total area of durian farms eligible for export to 3,000 hectares.
Meanwhile, dossiers for the granting of planting area codes for 3,500 other hectares are being prepared.