According to Nguyễn Thị Năm, a coconut farmer in Bình Hòa Commune, Giồng Trôm District, normally copra prices increase before Tết due to higher demand for making candies and sweets.
But this year, with the traditional holiday less than two weeks away, she could only sell her coconuts for VNĐ26,000 (US$1.12) per dozen, VNĐ10,000 less than a month ago.
Last year it was VNĐ130,000-140,000.
So her 1.5 tonnes of coconuts have fetched only VNĐ3 million.
“This Tết will be less joyful for me as I do not have money to celebrate it.
“We [coconut growers] need money to buy fertilisers, hire people to pack mud around the trees to mitigate the effects of saltwater intrusion [in the dry season] after Tết so that they will yield more fruits next harvest.
“Given the low prices, life will be tougher for us.”
In coastal districts a coconut fetches less than VNĐ2,000.
In the last few months Nguyễn Văn Hải of Phú Long Commune, Bình Đại District, who has around 4,000sq.m of coconut trees, has been selling at VNĐ22,000 per dozen.
“Not only I face this situation, so do many other households in the area. If it continues like this, farmers might have to think about growing other trees.”
Nguyễn Văn Lót, a coconut buyer in Giồng Trôm District, said this is the first time prices of copra have plunged before Tết.
They have dropped by VNĐ8,000 for a dozen in the last four or five days, he said.
Lót is now buying the nuts at VNĐ22,000 per dozen if they are picked by the farmers. If he has to do it himself, the prices are VNĐ15,000-17,000.
He said the sharp fall in copra prices is due to confectionery manufacturers stocking up well ahead of the Tết season fearing prices would increase, leading to an oversupply now.
Exports have plummeted, exacerbating the supply overhang.
According to the province’s Department of Agriculture and Rural Development, there are more than 72,000ha of coconut trees which yield more than 550,000 tonnes of the nut per year. Of the area, 75 per cent is dedicated to producing copra.
Huỳnh Quang Đức, deputy director of the department, said the fall in prices is in line with a global downtrend.
But farmers having contracts with companies can still get VNĐ50,000 per dozen, he said. Organic farmers could get VNĐ60,000-70,000, meaning they could earn a profit, he said.
The province is encouraging farmers to join co-operative teams and co-operatives so that they can sign contracts with companies.
The province has nine co-operatives, 37 co-operative teams and 11 coconut growing groups all of which have contracts with processors.
Besides, farmers are advised to replace old coconut trees with new varieties, which yield more nuts, and practise organic farming to improve quality so that they can compete in foreign markets.