According to the Vietnam Fruit and Vegetable Association, before July 2022, dragon fruit was always the main product of Vietnam’s fruit and vegetable industry with a five-year export turnover of over 1 billion USD. In addition to China, the main market, dragon fruit is exported to India, the USA, the EU, Thailand, Canada, Korea, Japan, Australia, New Zealand…
Vietnam’s dragon fruit exports are declining as many countries have planted and expanded the area.
In 2017, dragon fruit was crowned king for the first time in the group of exported fruits when it reached 1.157 billion USD and continuously maintained the position of “billion-dollar fruit” until 2021. After that, dragon fruit exports began to decrease strongly from 1.042 billion USD (in 2021) to 642 million USD (in 2022). In the first 7 months of this year, dragon fruit exports reached only 402 million USD.
Mr. Dang Phuc Nguyen, General Secretary of the Vietnam Fruit and Vegetable Association, said that 6-7 years ago, Vietnam was the main supplier of dragon fruit for China and Thailand. But recently, these countries identified dragon fruit as the main crop and they are focusing on developing it into a key crop.
Specifically, China, once Vietnam’s largest dragon fruit export market, always accounts for more than 80% of annual production. But in recent years, this country has expanded the area of dragon fruit cultivation. China has just announced the cultivation of 67,000 ha of dragon fruit, with an output of 1.6 million tons, more than Vietnam in terms of area and output. “This is the reason why Vietnam’s dragon fruit exports have gradually lost their dominance in China,” Mr. Nguyen said.
According to Mr. Nguyen, in addition to China, South American countries such as Peru, Mexico, and especially Ecuador, have grown many dragon fruits area. They apply the technology of lighting the lights so that dragon fruit is available for harvest all year round. Having the advantage of geographical location and much lower logistics costs than Vietnam, dragon fruit from these countries has dominated the US and EU markets, narrowing the market share of Vietnam’s dragon fruit.
India, which previously accounted for 8-10% of Vietnam’s dragon fruit exports, is also growing strongly and has planted 50,000 ha of dragon fruit.
“Dragon fruit growing regions are on the rise in many parts of the world. They study more high-quality dragon fruit varieties, which is a great pressure for Vietnam’s dragon fruit, ” Mr. Nguyen said.
INVEST IN PROCESSING, PRESERVING, AND IMPROVING THE QUALITY OF DRAGON FRUIT
Why dragon fruit lost the position of billion-dollar fruit?
According to Mr. Dang Phuc Nguyen, Vietnam’s dragon fruit industry is facing two challenges which are cultivation area and preservation and processing technology.
Firstly, to improve the quality, farmers abuse pesticides. Using the wrong dose has caused dragon fruit after harvest to have excess residues, failing to meet the food safety regulations of some importing countries. Meanwhile, the EU is taking samples of dragon fruit at the rate of 20% of shipments to check chemical residues. Recently, the UK also asked to sample up to 50% of shipments, causing exports to these markets to decline.
Secondly, dragon fruit is perishable. After harvest, it needs to be properly preserved to ensure quality, but the technology of preserving fresh dragon fruit in Vietnam is limited, not to 60 days. Therefore, it is difficult to export by ship but must be by plane with high freight. As a result, the consumed amount is not high.
Proposing a solution to keep the dragon fruit export market, Mr. Dang Phuc Nguyen said that localities should not expand new areas; only replace old dragon fruit gardens to have better yield and quality. Localities and businesses also need to guide farmers to improve cultivation techniques and ensure compliance with regulations of the import market to avoid increasing inspection rates as the EU is applying.
“In addition to the juice and dried products, businesses and scientists should research dragon fruit to process it into cosmetic products such as masks, lotions, etc. for domestic consumption and export as South American countries are doing,” Mr. Nguyen said./.