Many traders go to the Southeast provinces as well as the Mekong Delta region to buy baby oranges and grapefruits. These young fruits shall be dried and exported as raw materials for medicines.

Mr. Hoang Van Nha, Mo Cay Nam district (Ben Tre province), said that his family is pruning the orange garden of more than 2 ha, so when someone needs to buy baby oranges, Mr. Nha collects them to dry and sell to the trader.

However, since he “started his business” of gardening up to now, Mr. Nha has never sold baby oranges. Therefore, he is suspicious, especially when many traders unusually come to his garden to buy agricultural products such as young areca, pepper roots, and even leeches.

According to Mr. Nha, some orange growers often prioritize the out-of-season, so when the main season comes, they prune and remove young fruits to nourish trees. Even there are garden owners that prune most of the young fruit to make the oranges reach a larger size with more shiny skin. This amount of young fruit is thrown away or buried as fertilizer for the garden.

Baby oranges and grapefruits are collected, thinly sliced, and dried to sell to traders.

However, according to Mr. Nha, in small gardens, the quantity of young fruits is not much. When traders buy in kilograms, they have to spend much effort processing. But the revenue from selling young fruits is not much.

Mr. Phan Van Luong, Nam An Agricultural Import-Export Joint Stock Company, at Dong Da (Hanoi), said that this enterprise has a need to buy baby oranges, mandarins, and grapefruits in “extremely large” quantities.

The requirement is that small-sized oranges, mandarins, and grapefruits must “physiologically fall or removed”. The fruit can be yellow or black but not rotten. For oranges of all kinds, this business buys fruit with a diameter of 2.5cm or less, the fruit is as big as the tip of the thumb or a coin. For bigger oranges, the business only buysat VND 2,000/kg.

As for the mandarin, the fruit with diameters of 2.5cm or less is purchased all year round but for the bigger ones, the business refuses to buy. For baby grapefruit, it must reach a diameter of 3.5 cm or less, depending on each batch, the business may or not buy large-sized fruit and the price is low.

Mr. Luong explained that this amount of baby grapefruit will be sliced, dried, and exported to India as pharmaceutical raw materials. Farmers can collect them for sale without caring about the pesticide residues.

In terms of the purchasing price, Mr. Luong offers the price of 6,000 – 8,000 VND/kg for fresh fruits and 25,000 – 30,000 VND/kg for dried fruits. Farmers can sell directly or become agents for large quantities.

It is not a new thing that traders seek baby oranges and grapefruit. Three years ago, many people went to citrus-growing areas in the Mekong Delta to buy young fruits. Ms. Nguyen Thi Thanh, an owner of an orange garden in Chau Thanh district (Hau Giang province), said that a few years ago, she collected baby oranges from gardens to sell to traders.

Every day, she buys about several hundred kilograms at the price of 700-1,000 VND/kg. Traders come to order every day from 200 – 300kg. However, she does not know what the traders buy for and where they take oranges to.

An agricultural expert working at the Southern Institute of Agricultural Science and Technology said that pruning and cutting young fruits are technical requirements for farmers to grow citrus trees. Through this selection, garden owners can keep the standard fruits, and at the same time, nourishes the trees better for the next crop.

Agricultural experts say that the removal of baby and substandard fruits is essential.

However, the collection of young fruits for sale to traders is unlikely to bring higher economic profits because the effort to collect and dry them is very large. Not to mention, if farmers massively pick young fruits for sale to chase short-term profits, the yield shall be affected later.

“The purchase and sale of these strange agricultural products must ensure the payment. Farmers should not rush to collect young fruits when they are unsure whether their customers are reliable or not. There is a case that Chinese traders push up the purchasing price then quit happened many times before,” he advised./.