The project was carried out for 4 years. One of the technical supporting activities of project VIE/96/005 is sending internal and external consultants to Ben Tre for researching and proposing to plan of developing socio- economic field. During this time, Ben Tre province proposed Project of Researching to assess the status and the use of coconut in the province and proposed plans for developing the coconut industry. Mr. H.A Tillerkeratne, Chairman of Coconut Development Authority of Sri Lanka was chosen as foreign experts role to do this survey and evaluate.
Ben Tre's coconut industry in the period of 1990-1996 has not really grown. According to research data in 1996s, in whole province, it had just 33.000ha of coconut, which are about 29.000ha harvesting. Coconut area distributed most in Giong Trom, Mo Cay, Chau Thanh and Binh Dai districts with the yield was only about 200 millions of fruit/year. On the average, one tree just harvests about 34 of fruit/year. Comparing with 1980s, coconut output and area have continued to decline. Continuous years later, people in Ben Tre are no longer interested in coconut trees. They cut down them and replaced by other valuable fruits (mainly longan, rambutan). For the use and processing of coconut, according to the survey report of Project VIE/96/005, with 200 millions outputs/year, Ben Tre used for 3 basic purposes: on-site consumption (used in family, food processing, feed animals, poultries); whole-fruit-coconut export; processing industrial coconut products. A survey of enterprises, the main coconut products of provinces in 1997s and earlier was mainly producing of coconut oil from dried coconut rice, a little of desiccated coconut, most of the rest was coconut fiber, sintering coal and coconut handicrafts.
Limitations of Ben Tre coconut industry in this period mainly was the lack of a unified agency in the coconut industrial management from stages of planting, processing, target market, markets ( Ben Tre is unlike some countries as Sri Lanka or Philippines, their coconut industry were unified managed by an agency and has s specific developing policy); the lack of research and development (R&D) in the coconut processing field; the lack of information of technological processing, the lack of market’s information (coconut’s price at that time was just depended on the purchasing price for whole fruit of export ships, which exported to China); the lack of market’s promotion, and the lack of facilities and equipments to test products after processing .
VIE/96/005 Project also proposed to the province the solutions for developing the coconut industry, from supporting strengthen agricultural stage to supply coconut cultivation techniques to enhance the output to the stage of post-harvest, processing, information, market. Especially it recommended that the province needs a unified managing mechanisms for the coconut industry to focus on the development and enhance the position of Ben Tre coconut industry. Many of project’s recommendations have paid attention by Ben Tre Province’s leaders and focus on investment in later years.
Since 1999s, the promotion activities, calling for investments have paid attention by the province and they reinforced the coconut industry, especially constructing the portfolio for calling investment and issueing many incentives for investors in the coconut products processing field. The typical is the Ben Tre Department of Planning and Investment has successfully invited Malaysian investors (Coconut Processing Ltd., Co.) and Sri Lanka (JV Silvermill - Treximco) to plant the new coconut products processing that were not previously produced. Both companies have invested a total of over 6 millions USD for processing the desiccated coconut, coconut milk powder and was one of the pioneers in bringing the Ben Tre desiccated coconut product out to world’s markets. The initial succeed of them has led to the foundations of other desiccated coconut private factories. By these coconut plants has also increased the prices coming up higher 3-5 times than in 1997s .
Coconut trees become valuable and Ben Tre coconut gardeners had the benefits so they contributed to increase the province's coconut area. Until 2008s, the province's coconut area is increased by 36 % as compared with 1996s. Currently, the coconut processing industry has developed pretty strong and most of value-added products are processing in Ben Tre province by internal and foreign investors as high quality desiccated coconut, coconut milk powder, fresh coconut milk, activated charcoal, clean soil.... Thus, from the initial start of the coconut industrial researching of VIE/96/005 Project, Ben Tre has pretty good step to empowering coconut industry and the coconut industry is constantly evolving, both in terms of production, processing and consumption. Processing capacity of the coconut industry is enhanced and good enough to compete with other countries in the region.
After VIE/96/005 UNDP Project of UNDP, since 2008s, the International Fund for Agricultural Development (IFAD acronyms) funded to Ben Tre for implementing the Developing Business with the rural poor Project (DBRP) .
The project aims to alleviate the rural poverty in a sustainable manner and promote justice through economic development and business support - investment. One of the main components of the project is to develop the rural services business. This component will be implemented by the method of the value’s chain and one of the first chain to which this project directed is performing the coconut value’s chain. In 2009s, the Project Management Unit of DBRP combined with local and foreign experts for the in-depth evaluation and comparison with Ben Tre’s coconut industry with the others in region. The goal of the DBRP project is wantting to build and support the coconut industry, with particular attention to the stages, processes that bring benefits for the poor such as planting and processing of coconut products because these stages have created many jobs and income for rural people and the poor. DBRP project enhances capacity for stakeholders to help developing the coconut processing industry of local sustainability. Immediately specific action is helping for establishment and strengthen the capacity of the coconut industry associatio. Initially, 50 companies have participated in the coconut industry association. The development of Association will promote the province's coconut industry development, creating jobs and income for local people and contribute to the eradication of poverty.
Based on the 2009s survey with 35 of processing enterprises, business in the coconut industry, DBRP is increasingly providing training supporting services for enterprise governance, promotion researching, surveying, market accessing, enhancing competitiveness through the introduction of quality standards, safe and ledding the businesses closer with the planting coconut farmers through the offtake contracts. The project will also serve as a bridge in training and employment for local businesses. A survey report of the project in August- 2009 gave a pretty interesting result is that if the average coconut price increases 25%, there will be about 35,600 of Ben Tre people out of poverty, if increased over 5%, there would be 68,200 people out of poverty, and if coconut prices doubled (100%) there will have 85,700 people out of poverty. Therefore, the development of coconut products processing industry, market expansion is a priority of the province and the project, which aims to enhance product value and contribute to the eradication of poverty for Ben Tre province.
From now to 2010s, the DBRP project will support to the province building the coconut industry development strategy, which identified priorities, such as encouraging to increase the yield and area which plants coconut, strengthening the activities of Ben Tre Coconut Association, encouraging the application of appropriate technology for processing of integrated products (not only producing one product, promoting the strengths of each item through analysis of investment costs and generate profits to select the most effective stitching) and enhancing the coconut industry management during the competition. These works are coordinated to build a concrete plan for implementing by DBRP with other provincial departments. Therefore, the value’s chain of coconut trees of Ben Tre DBRP Project is considered as one of the next steps, specifying researchs, proposals of VIE/96/005 Project and are meeting the expectations of province in order to maintain and sustainability develop the coconut industry and for a sustainable rural development.
Nguyen Truc Son (Director of IPC Ben Tre)
Translated by BTCA