As the dragon fruit season concludes, an increase in prices accompanies a reduction in supply, with production plummeting by over 50%.
Many merchants in Chau Thanh district of southern Long An Province are buying type 1 (highest quality) to 3 red-fleshed dragon fruits for VND33,000-43,000 (US$1.32-1.72) per kilogram.
But long gone is the bountiful harvest of dragon fruit harvest as most farmers have massively reduced production after suffering lasting losses.
Nguyen Van Phuc, 40, who grows 3,000 square meters of red-fleshed dragon fruit in the Thanh Phu Long ward of Chau Thanh, says in previous years, when the fruit’s prices hit VND30,000, which happened 2-3 times annually, his family would pollinate the trees to harvest a yearly six tons of the fruit and make a profit of over VND100 million.
After the pandemic, dragon fruit exports fell off a cliff, leading to persistent losses for Phuc and numerous other farmers.
Some orchards could not afford fertilizers and insecticides, so switched to different crops.
Phuc and his family tried their best to continue the dragon fruit trade, but no longer harvest out of season to minimize losses.
“Year to date we have only produced around two tons [of dragon fruit], which is a third of the previous years’ harvest. Accounting for fertilizer and labor costs, we made no profit.”
Truong Van An, who is waiting to harvest his 1.5 hectares of out-of-season red-fleshed dragon fruit, says this season, most orchards only grow the fruit perfunctorily, so the products are mostly rated as type 3-4.
“Additionally, tree diseases affected some areas, resulting in low-quality fruits that can only sell for VND7,000-8,000 per kilo. This season, orchards might make little to no profit or even suffer a loss,” An said.
Previously, Long An had around 12,000 hectares of dragon fruit, primarily in Chau Thanh district, with a yearly harvest of 300,000 tons.
After several years of continuous losses and the pandemic, there are only around 9,000 hectares of dragon fruit left as most farmers have shifted to other crops.
Nguyen Quoc Trinh, chairman of the Long An Dragon Fruit Association, claims the fruit’s prices are at their highest since the start of the year. Nonetheless, the harvest has yielded less than 200-300 tons.
“After years of losses, dragon fruit trees at some orchards are not taken care of, lack fertilizer and have even contracted diseases. The crop is consequently halved.”
Currently, merchants can only procure 2-3 tons of dragon fruit per day at most, with some unable to find any.
Tien Giang Province, which also had around 10,000 hectares of dragon fruit in the past, now only has 8,900 hectares, which produces 200,000 tons of fruit per year.