Drought reduces durian yields and quality

Durians in a store in the Mekong Delta province of Tien Giang. Photo by Hai Thuan

Durian farmers in Vietnam are worried that saltwater intrusion and drought at the country’s main hub of durian production will reduce the spiky fruit’s yield and lower its quality.

“The key problem of this durian harvest season is the prolonged drought and sea water intrusion that decreased the yield and quality of Vietnam’s durian farms,” Vo Huu Thoai, director of the country’s Southern Fruit Institute, told CNA.

The Mekong Delta, which produces half of the country’s durian, has been severely affected by shifting weather patterns and increasing saltwater intrusion in recent years. Hydropower dams built upstream on the Mekong River restrict the downstream flow, leading to a freshwater shortage.

Thousands of people in the delta are suffering a “severe” shortage of fresh water because of drought and salinization, prompting authorities to declare a state of emergency early last month, according to AFP.

The drought, combined with the heat wave sweeping across Southeast Asia and the El Nino phenomenon, has worsened saltwater intrusion this year, impacting durian production.

“The biggest threat to durians is saltwater. Durian trees are highly susceptible to salt water,” durian farmer Tran Van Nghia told CNA. Nghia was among the first to import Monthong durian trees from Thailand more than two decades ago to grow in southern Tien Giang province, located along the banks of the Mekong River.

Phan Hoang Tan, who owns a durian orchard in the Mekong Delta province of Ben Tre, said his farm’s production has dropped by 30% from the previous three harvests due to scorching temperatures and a lack of freshwater, Vietnamese newspaper Thanh Nien reported.

Several orchards in Dong Nai Province have also warned that the next harvest’s output might slide 30-40%.

Thoai said: “The problem is set to get worse in the coming years if we don’t act fast enough to implement the solutions.”

Vietnam exported $2.3 billion worth of durian last year, 87% of it to China.

This figure is forecast to soar to $3.5 billion this year amid burgeoning demand from that country, but this growth may become uncertain due to the drought and saltwater intrusion.

In contrast to Vietnam, the heat wave in the region is expected to enhance Malaysia’s durian production, especially for its Musang King variety.

This could increase competition for Vietnam as Malaysia is finalizing talks to export fresh durians to China by the end of 2024, The Business Times reported.

Aside from that, oversupply may become a concern in the coming years as Vietnamese farmers switch from other crops to durians.

The country now has 150,000 hectares under durian across, exceeding the Ministry of Agriculture and Rural Development’s target of 75,000 hectares.

Nonetheless, only about 13% of Vietnam’s durian farms have met the requirements and been approved for export to China.

Source: Drought reduces durian yields and quality – VnExpress International