Dr. Jelfina C. Alouw, Executive Director of ICC (center of yellow shirt) and conference participants.
Theme: Good agricultural practices in coconut for enhancing production efficiency, product quality and resilience to climate change, 2-4 September 2022, At Hotel Lemeridian, Kochi, India.
Dr. Jefina C. Alouw, ICC Executive Director (center) and panelist
The Ben Tre Coconut Association, representing Vietnam, gave presentations on some activities and experiences in developing Ben Tre's organic coconut production, by Mr. Bui Truong Tho - Deputy Director of the Breeding and Ornamental Center Ben Tre Coconut Association representative reported, at 10.00-10.30 on September 3, 2022.
Mr. Bui Truong Tho - Deputy Director of Ben Tre Breeding and Ornamental Center, representative of Ben Tre Coconut Association reported online at 10.00-10.30 on September 3, 2022.
The full text of the report is as follows:
Coconut Association of Ben Tre province
Dear Conference Board of Organizers,
Dear distinguished participants,
My name is: Bui Truong Tho (Mr.)
Position/ place of work: Deputy Director of Ben Tre Bonsai Production Center, Vietnam
First of all, thank you very much, the Conference Board of Organizers, for giving us a chance to participate in and deliver our presentation at the today’s event. On behalf of the Coconut Association of Ben Tre province, I would like to provide some information on the province’s coconut production and processing activities.
Dear distinguished participants
As of the end of 2021, the total coconut cultivation areas of the province were more than 77,000 ha, of which approximately 71,000 ha were already harvested with the total productivity of 672,745 tons. Coconut is the main source of income of more than 200,000 farming households. Ben Tre province, thanks to abundant and remarkable high-quality sources of materials, its coconut processing industry has developed notably fast and comprehensively with processing technologies having reached the regional and international standards. At present, in the whole province, nearly 200 enterprises and coconut-based processing and production units have provided products to domestic and exporting markets via different types and scopes of operational activities. The annual export-import turnovers of coconut-based products value more than 350 million of USD, accounting for approximately 30% of those of the whole province. Currently, coconut-based products from Ben Tre province have been launched in more than 90 countries and territories, of which mainly focus in the USA, the Middle East, Africa, EU, China, Korea, Japan and Australia.
At present, in the world’s coconut market, coconut from Vietnam accounts for a small percentage compared to that of the Philippines, Indonesia and South American region because its cultivation areas are remarkbly smaller than those in these areas. At the same time, Ben Tre is a province that is heavily and directly affected by climate change. In addtion, the situation of drought and saltwater intrusion in recent times has greatly affected the province's coconut productivity. As a result, Ben Tre province has selected its coconut growth pathway towards developing concentrated-organic coconut production areas in combination with applications of scientific advancements in processing activities. The pathway has helped the province coconut sector quickly integrate into the world coconut processing industry.
Since 2016, policies have been made available by the Government to develop raw material areas for organic coconut farming to serve for coconut processing and exporting activities. More than 6 years after the implementation of the policies, the province has achieved some certain outcomes. Particularly, more than 16,000 ha of coconuts have been produced according to organic standards set by imported countries, of which nearly 10,000 ha have been certified. The future orientation has been planned in that by 2030, 30,000 ha of organic coconuts are going to be developed.
Dear distinguished partcipants! In order to gain the achievements mentioned above, we have overcome great difficulties and challenges. I hereby would like to share with you our difficulties and solutions to develop organic coconuts of Ben Tre province, Vietnam.
Small scale and fragmented cultivation practices at household size, with 0.5 ha/ household, are the status of coconut production in Ben Tre province. Therefore, the conversion from conventional to organic production has faced many difficulties. Firstly, activities to encourage community to transform to organic coconut production was time consuming and costly. Secondly, in some coconut cultivation areas, farmers have been familiar with conventional practices (i.e. using fertilizers and chemicals). Thirdly, training costs for technical transfer were high. Fourthly, many coconut cultivation areas would have lost to establish buffer zones if some farming households had not accepted to participate in the conversion to organic production. Fifthly, consultancy and organic certification costs were also significantly high.
Therefore, to develop organic coconut production areas, synchronous solutions should be made available in parallel with the above challenges. It has been realized that if enterprises acted on their own, it would be difficult to encourage community engagement and to conduct training on technical transfer. If all activities were under the responsibilities of the government, the development of organic coconut would lack its effectiveness and sustainability. As a result, enterprises, the government, the Coconut Association and the Farmer’s Union came together and worked hand-in-hand to carry out assigned duties to reach the target. Specifically, enterprises, based on their needs of raw materials and capacities, registered organic coconut areas and paid for consultancy and certification costs applicable to the registered areas. Various Associations were responsible for encouraging community engagement in conversion to the organic production while the Government handled training, technical transfer and oversaw linkages in consumption activities between enterprises and farmers. On the quarterly basis, we sat down to inform each other our gained achievements, pending issues and work out solutions. We have gradually achieved what we have today.
In parallel with the expansion of raw material areas for organic coconuts, the province has developed the coconut processing industry focusing on research activities to develop new products, invest into new processing technologies to meet requirements of international consumers, uniform quality of organic materials such as UHT (Ultra High Temperature) technology, products with environment-friendly boxes, e.g. recyclable Tetra Pak cartons.
What we have gained via the development of organic coconut production did not only limit to income increase of farmers and enterprises with sources of organic coconuts meeting cleanliness standards required by international markets, but also something maybe several times more than what was mentioned. Firstly, we have a community consisting of advanced and responsible producers who have been responsible with their health, that of their families and other communities, with the living environment and especially with consumers. Secondly, farmers’ capacity in producing coconuts adaptable to climate change conditions has been significantly improved because the organic solution has shown its good adaptation to the current climate change. Thirdly, the eco environment has been made better. Fourthly, producers’ skills in maximizing the use of coconut by-products have been improved to return nutrients to the soil, which is more responsible towards the sustainable circular organic agriculture. Fifthly, green, clean and beautiful environment has been created to serve for tourism development, combined with handicraft villages to produce coconut-based household and artistic products so as to further enrich the typical features of the coconut land.
In the future, in addition to expanding the organic material areas, the province is going to continuously apply technologies into the management of the organic coconut production activities. At present, with more than 16,000 ha of organic coconut trees having an excess of 30,000 farming households participating in the organic production, the management of household information, maps of coconut production soil status, GPS coordinates of coconut orchards on the maps has been initially applied by enterprises to ensure the digital technology application in the production management.
That’s all for my presentation on some activities and experiences in the development of Ben Tre organic coconut production. I would like to wish for the success of the Conference, wish our distinguished participants good health and success in every aspect of life.
Thank you for your attention!