Thousands of ha of rice and jackfruit in the Southwest of Vietnam were switched to durian cultivation, causing many concerns about unsuitable soil conditions in some areas and supply exceeding demand, causing dropped prices.

In mid-February, Mr.Tran Dang Khoa’s one-ha garden of durian Ri6 and Mongthong, Tan Lap commune (Tan Thanh, Long An) is about to harvest for the second time in the season. Due to being located in the area granted the planting area code, his durian was offered by traders for 150,000 VND per kg.

The second durian crop in Mr. Tran Dang Khoa’s garden. 

The garden owner said that the family has 3.5 ha of land. Previously, his family used to plant three rice crops a year with an income of 100 million after deducting costs. Due to low profits, he switched part of this area to grow dragon fruit. However, due to the unstable price of this fruit, more than 5 years ago, after visiting many gardeners in Cai Lay, Tien Giang, he borrowed bank loans to switch to durian.

It takes 4-5 years for durian to bear fruit so he only switched one ha to grow durian and the rest for rice and Thai jackfruit. On average, a durian tree from planting to harvest costs 7 million VND. So, Mr. Khoa spent more than one billion VND for each ha of durian with 150-180 trees.

“With a yield of 15 tonnes per ha, after deducting the investment capital and other costs, the profit is estimated at more than one billion VND per ha,” Mr. Khoa said and added that he had just flattened the field to expand the durian area.

50 km away, Mr. Nguyen Van Dong, 50 years old, Hau Thanh commune (Cai Be, Tien Giang) from early morning with workers fertilizing one ha of a 4-year-old durian garden, expected to harvest next year.

Mr. Dong said that in the past, his family only grew rice, earning 20 million VND per year. About 4 years ago, Thai jackfruit cost hundreds of thousands of VND per kilogram so he and many farmers switched to planting jackfruit. However, after that, the price of jackfruit went down strongly and no one to buy. At the same time, the price of durian is high, at nearly 100,000 VND per kg, so he continued to cut the jackfruit to switch to durian cultivation.

“My garden has a total of 200 durian trees, each of which has cost about 4 million VND, equivalent to 800 million VND. Due to high costs, I have to borrow money from banks,” Mr. Dong said.

A farmer is taking care of durian in Binh Phu, Cai Lay, Tien Giang.

Mr. Dong is not an individual in the locality that is no longer interested in rice and jackfruit. Within 3 years, the durian area in Tien Giang province increased from 14,500 ha to 17,600 ha.

The situation of farmers rushing to plant durian is common in the western provinces such as Can Tho and Hau Giang, with an area of thousands of ha. The Ministry of Agriculture and Rural Development has a project “Sustainable development of main fruit trees by 2030”, planning a national durian area of 65,000-75,000 ha. However, currently, the area of durian cultivation in the whole country is over 80,000 ha and is increasing.

Prof. Dr. Nguyen Bao Ve, Former Head of the Agriculture Faculty at Can Tho University, is concerned that the situation of farmers rushing to grow durian without planning will cause the risk of unsuitable soil conditions in some areas. For example, in Tan Phuoc district (Tien Giang), it is mainly low-lying alum soil, if growing durian, it will cost a lot of money to improve the soil.

Mr. Ve also warned that in areas at risk of flooding such as Dong Thap Muoi (including parts of Long An, Tien Giang, and Dong Thap), if durian is grown without a safe dike system, many risks may be caused.

On the other hand, in areas where there are culverts to prevent salinity, if there is a lack of fresh water for a long time, the alum from the ground will leak up and kill the plants. Therefore, farmers in this area when growing durian need to store enough fresh water through the dry season.

A two-ha field in Tan Lap and Tan Thanh communes (Long An) was flattened to grow durian.

Dr. Vo Huu Thoai, Director of the Southern Fruit Tree Institute, assessed the situation of farmers in the Southwest rushing to plant fruit trees and then falling into a cycle of “having a bumper crop but lost prices”. For example, in the past, Thai jackfruit was high-priced, then farmers rushed to plant it. But when the price of jackfruit was reduced to 5,000 VND per kg, they cut down trees. Or like Vinh Long orange, the area exceeds the planning, the supply exceeds the demand, and then had to ask for help.

“Currently, among 80,000 ha of durian, only 5% of the area is granted the official export planting area code of China. So if farmers continue to grow spontaneously, oversupply will be risky,” Mr. Thoai said and added that in the long run, the State needs to have policies to control the area to ensure stable output.

In addition, the government needs to plan stable raw material areas, and build a brand that combines an enterprise system to ensure output. Durian is a “rich” tree, cannot stand waterlogging or drought, and has high investment costs. If enterprises quit in the middle, it will cause difficulties for farmers./.