ONE REMARKABLE thing about agriculture in Vietnam is that when they see the potential of one crop, they really get into it in a big way. Just like the dragon fruit farms in Long An province that we visited recently.
800 HECTARES – Michael Nguyen Dinh Le, a businessman who is into investments and finance, brought us to the community where no less than 800 hectares were planted to dragon fruit several years back. He explained that the place used to be devoted to rice. But a feasibility study made by experts convinced the farmers to shift to dragon fruit.
BETTER THAN RICE – Dragon fruit has a lot of advantages over rice. For one, it is a perennial crop. Once established, the plantation can be productive for many years. In the case of rice, you have to plant new seedlings after harvesting the grains less than four months from planting. In the case of dragon fruit, the yield will even grow bigger as the plant gets older, as long as it is given proper care.
HIGH-VALUE & EXPORTABLE – Dragon fruit is a high-value crop and is also exportable. The fruits can be processed into products with added value such as wine, juice, jams, jelly or ice cream. It can also be quick-frozen for the local and export market. Dragon fruit is also highly productive. In one fruiting season, one mature clump can easily produce10 to 15 kilos. And since there are more than 500 plants per hectare, the gross per hectare is very substantial. At the time of our visit to the farms in Long An, the going farmgate price was the equivalent of at least P140 in Philippine money.
ADVANTAGES OF BIG – What is the advantage of getting into dragon fruit production in a big way? Well, there is the economy of scale. There is also enough volume that will make processing plants busy most parts of the year. The producers could set the price and not dictated by traders.
NEW TECHNOLOGY – There is a very new technology that could further add value to the dragon fruit for the export market. The new technology is called IQF or Instant Quick Freeze. This technology freezes the farm produce in just a matter of three to four minutes. When the frozen product is thawed by the consumer, it is just as fresh as when it was about to be frozen. The crunchiness is there and the nutrients are intact.
BETTER THAN BLAST FREEZING – IQF is much better than blast freezing which takes about an hour for a commodity to be blast frozen. One company with IQF facility that we visited in An Giang province can quick-freeze farm produce at the rate of 12.5 tons per hour.
OTHER PRODUCTS FOR NOW – As of now, however, they are concentrating on baby corn, vegetable soybean for snack, mango and vegetables. They are not yet quick-freezing dragon fruit but when the time comes, dragon fruit could become another bestseller for Vietnam in the export market. After all, it is not only delicious and nutritious to eat, it is also well known for its medicinal attributes.
IRRIGATED – Unlike d