Vietnam targets coconut product exports of $1B

Exports of coconut products were worth $900 million last year and are expected to top $1 billion this year, according to the Vietnam Coconut Association.

Cao Ba Dang Khoa, the association’s acting general secretary, said the country has risen to fourth place in Asia in terms of coconut exports.

Every part of the coconut tree – fruits, wood, leaves – has a use, he said.

The processing industry has developed some 200 products like candy, fibre, shell charcoal, oil, coconut milk, and carpet, besides fresh coconut.

It has invested in production technologies to make products of international quality and export to many markets including demanding ones, he said.

Firms exported coconut wood last year, and many businesses now report large export orders for it and coconut shell for making handicrafts, he said.

The association is coordinating with several industries and localities to organise activities to expand production capacity and build brands for coconut products, he said.

With proper marketing, coconut products would gain traction in international markets, he said.

The association plans to set up offices in several provinces and cities, he said.

The industry faces challenges, including the lack of a standalone set of standards and rules for coconut varieties and wood origin traceability, he said.

Vietnam has 175,000 hectares under coconut, mainly in the Cuu Long (Mekong) Delta and the central coast, with the former accounting for nearly 80%.

A glimpse into Vietnam’s coconut kingdom

The Mekong Delta province of Ben Tre is well known as Vietnam’s coconut capital, where local farmers have been subsisting on coconut groves for generations.

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A coconut grove in Giong Trom District seen from Ham Luong Bridge connecting Ben Tre, capital of the eponymous province, and Mo Cay Bac District. Ben Tre Province is accreted by alluvium from four tributaries, Tien River, Ba Lai River, Ham Luong River and Co Chien River, creating favorable conditions for coconut cultivation.
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Currently, Ben Tre has more than 200,000 families growing coconuts, accounting for about two thirds of the total number of households in the province. Therefore, coconut groves can be found everywhere.
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A man cycles past coconut trees in the early morning, evoking the peaceful atmosphere and slow pace of life in the countryside.
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A house installed with satellite TV antennas is surrounded with green coconut trees, a common image in Giong Trom District.
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Before the new Covid wave hit the country in late April, some travel agencies also operated boat tours taking visitors to eco-tourism sites in Ben Tre, floating coconut markets and traditional villages producing coconut candy and handicrafts.
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Traders use boats to collect coconuts in Dong Ngo Hamlet, Binh Hoa Commune of Giong Trom District. Ben Tre boasts the largest coconut-growing area in the country at 74,000 hectares (182,800 acres), of which Giong Trom District hosts more than 17,000.
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Coconut milk is an indispensable ingredient of popular sweet cakes in the south like banh da lon (Vietnamese steamed layer cake made from tapioca starch, rice flour, mashed mung beans and taro), banh bo nuong (pandan and coconut tapioca cake), banh chuoi nuong (baked banana cake) or banh khoai mi (cassava cake), sold at Soc Doc Market in Giong Trom District.
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A rainbow straddles coconut groves in Binh Thuan Hamlet of Tan Thanh Commune, Giong Trom.
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Sunset in An Ngai Trung Commune, Ba Tri District. Historic levels of saltwater intrusion in recent years across Mekong Delta have caused coconuts in Ben Tre Province to shrink by half their size and farmers’ incomes by even more.

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