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Fruit and vegetable growers aim to double exports by 2010  (03/03/2009) 
The agricultural sector has set a target to double fruit and vegetable exports from a total of US$390 million in 2008 to US$760 million by 2010, with a long-term goal to reach an annual turnover of US$1.2 billion by 2010.

To achieve these goals despite the current global economic downturn, officials are fostering market research, stepping up trade promotion, and reviewing current agricultural planning, said Phan Huy Thong, deputy director of the Ministry of Agriculture and Rural Development’s Department of Cultivation.

The ministry is conducting research nationwide and has asked each region to choose one or two major crops in which to specialize. It is also focusing trade promotion efforts on restoring former markets in Russia and Eastern Europe, as well as on consolidating current markets in the US and EU, as well as China and regional neighbours in Southeast Asia.

To compete more effectively with other exporters, including China, each country has its own built-in advantages and would try to build on these to boost exports.

Fruit and vegetable growers in Vietnam remain on a small scale, uncoordinated, and hampered by land policies that present obstacles to large-scale farming or high-tech agriculture. Research on crop varieties is still focused on developing new varieties on a pilot basis and has not resulted in new varieties being widely cultivated.

The lack of centralized planning is also a major problem for development of the sector, said Thong.

In northern Ha Giang province, for instance, the area under cultivation with oranges in 2008 was nearly 5,000ha, resulting in a yield of nearly 23,000 tonnes. As the price of domestically-grown oranges plummeted, oranges were imported from China in large quantities, with a better appearance and a lower price. Though the harvest season was over, there still have been 8,000 tonnes of oranges unsold in the province.

Surpluses have also occurred with pineapple in Ninh Binh province, custard apples in Lang Son, and litchi in Bac Giang province.

Of the 140,000ha in the northern region under fruit cultivation, the areas for growing litchi account for 80 percent.

The Ministry of Agriculture and Rural Development has already asked Son La province to reduce the area used for growing longan (currently 13,500ha out of the country’s 44,000ha) and shift to planting other kinds of fruit, since the quality of longan grown in this province is not as high as that in Hung Yen province.

The director of the Research Institute for Fruits and Vegetables, Trinh Khac Quang, said that researchers can help farmers ensure a better price for fruit if they were to think of ways to help prolong the harvest season of fruits.

Farmers also need to be supported with techniques for better preserving fruits and vegetables after harvest, said Doan Xuan Hoa, deputy director of the Department of Agro-Forestry Products Processing and Salt Production.

For instance, fresh fruit transported from the north to the south can only be preserved for three to 20 days, depending on the type of fruit, Hoa said.

Current research is examining such preservation methods for fruit by using ozone water technology.

The nation’s fruits and vegetables are now being exported to 50 countries and territories worldwide.

ECVN

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