Finding ways to consume fresh longan

Although the harvest season of longan has begun, longan growing areas in the North are facing many difficulties in exporting, especially regarding the export of the fruit to China due to the impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic. Despite a bumper crop, local farmers in large longan farming hubs such as Hung Yen and Son La provinces are worried because of declining selling prices and slow consumption.

A local farmer in Hung Yen province harvests longan of the 2020 crop.
A local farmer in Hung Yen province harvests longan of the 2020 crop.

Difficult to consume longan

According to the People's Committee of Hung Yen province, the province has more than 4,500 ha of longan, of which nearly 4,000 ha are in harvest. This year, the province is enjoying a bumper crop with an estimated output of about 50,000 tonnes, an increase of 20% over the previous year.

Local farmers have finished harvesting about 18,000 tonnes of early maturing longan with sale prices from VND15,000 to VND30,000 per kg and are beginning to pick the longan of main season. However, due to the influence of the coronavirus pandemic, the consumption of longan is encountering difficulties.

“My family has harvested five tonnes of fresh longan in this crop, 1.5 times higher than the previous year but not many traders are coming to buy it and longan prices have also plummeted compared to last year,” said Tran Thi That, a local farmer in Hong Nam commune, Hung Yen city.

Tran Thi Bac, chairwoman of the Ne Chau Longan Cooperative in Hong Nam commune, said that the cooperative has 31 members with a total volume of 250 tonnes in this crop which all meet VietGAP standards. In previous years, most of the longan output was sold to traders to sell at supermarkets or exported but this year the amount of longan purchased reached only half that of the previous year with the price having fallen by 20%, Bac noted.

Ham Tu commune in Khoai Chau district has 270ha of longan from the main crop which is going to be picked but Ham Tu farmers are all worried about the consumption of the fruit due to the effects of the pandemic, according to Nguyen Van The, Chairman of the Ham Tu Commune Farmers’ Association.

With over 80,500 ha of fruit and a total output of approximately 343,000 tonnes per year, the northern province of Son La has become the second largest fruit growing region in Vietnam. Of this, the longan area is 17,300 ha, mainly concentrated in Song Ma, Mai Son, Yen Chau, and Muong La districts.

This year, the province is estimated to harvest 70,400 tonnes of longan, including about 22,400 tonnes eligible for export. The harvest of Son La starts from the beginning of August to the end of September.

The province is expected to export about 7,900 tonnes of longan in this crop, mainly to the Chinese market, consume 6,000 tonnes in the province, and sell 57,000 tonnes to other localities across the country.

However, due to the complicated developments of the coronavirus pandemic, an online trade promotion conference on longan with China’s Guangxi province had to be cancelled. The province held a conference on boosting the processing, consumption and export of longan products but with a narrowed scale in Song Ma district on July 25.

Director of the Department of Industry and Trade of Hung Yen province, Nguyen Van Tho, said that the implementation of longan purchasing contracts has faced difficulties due to the COVID-19 pandemic while the volume of consumed longan is not as expected, particularly given the delay in the export of fresh longan. Trade promotion activities for the consumption of Hung Yen longan in some big cities including Hanoi were also cancelled, Tho added.

Increasing longan processing and consumption in domestic market

However, the export of longan still sees bright signals as Chi Linh City in Hai Duong province exported its fresh longan abroad for the first time. The city has so far exported 16 tonnes of longan to Singapore, nine tonnes to the UK and is about to export 16 tonnes to Australia.

It is worth mentioning that the selling prices of exported longan is VND5,000 – VND7,000 per kg higher than the selling prices in the domestic market.

At a conference on boosting the processing, consumption and export of longan products held by Son La province in Song Ma district on July 25, over 30 tonnes of Song Ma longan were exported to the Chinese market.

The Vietnam Ministry of Agriculture and Rural Development (MARD) held a working session with representatives from the Chinese Embassy in Vietnam in early August in a bid to remove difficulties regarding the import and export of fruit between the two countries amid the COVID-19 pandemic.

Deputy Minister of Agriculture and Rural Development Le Quoc Doanh said that with the support of the Chinese Embassy and the collaboration of relevant agencies of both countries, Vietnamese lychee from the recent crop sold well. Vietnam also wishes to promote the export of longan to China because many processed products can be made from it.

A representative from the Chinese Embassy said that that the Chinese side is always willing to cooperate with the relevant ministries and sectors to ease difficulties for enterprises including holding online meetings or contacting major Chinese enterprises to boost the import of Vietnamese longan.

In an effort to promote the consumption of longan amidst the coronavirus pandemic, the Ministry of Industry and Trade in coordination with the MARD and People’s Committees of Hung Yen and Son La provinces held an online international trade promotion conference on Vietnamese longan products on August 13.

Through the impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic, the important role of the domestic market for agricultural products has once again been affirmed. Therefore, besides boosting exports to established markets and expanding export markets, localities are promoting domestic consumption.

According to Nguyen Tien Hai, head of the Agriculture and Rural Development Division in Song Ma district, Son La province, the district has harvested over 70% of its longan areas. Due to decreasing prices of longan, local farmers and cooperatives have switched to processing dried longan. Cooperatives in Mai Son district have also used thousands of tonnes of fresh longan to make dried longan.

The People’s Committee of Hung Yen province also organised a longan festival from July 31 to August 2 showcasing 50 pavilions to promote local longan and other key agricultural products in a bid to boost the consumption of longan in the domestic market.