Vietnam’s mango industry remains underdeveloped and has huge potential for growth. A booming economy and rising demand for the fruit both locally and abroad are encouraging, says Professor Robin Roberts, from the Griffith Asia Institute at Griffith University.
Most of Vietnam’s mango farmers are smallholders and face challenges such as small volumes, process inefficiencies and high production costs.
To improve profits for smallholder farmers, an ACIAR-supported project is helping develop supply chains for mango production in southern Vietnam. In 2018, the project mapped mango supply chains. From 2019 to 2022, the project has been implementing changes along a single supply chain to demonstrate the potential of different interventions.
The 4-year project, which is ending later this year, is part of the ACIAR aid commitment to the region to bolster cooperation and find solutions to mango trade issues through research.
Higher profit for mango farmers
The project aligns with Vietnam’s focus on developing mango cultivation, which is a priority for government at the national level. Also, rising affluence in Vietnam has resulted in greater concern amongst consumers for food safety, ‘buy local’ sentiment and better treatment for farmers.
Poor fruit quality and short shelf life are issues for mangoes grown and sold in Vietnam, which the project has sought to address.
Mango cultivation has the ability to improve the livelihood of thousands of smallholder farmers.
According to Mr Dinh Hoang, lead researcher on the project for Vietnam’s Southern Centre for Agriculture and Rural Policy and Strategy (SCAP), mango has surpassed banana to take second place (after dragon fruit) in terms of export turnover, commanding an export volume of more than 600,000 tons. The export value of mangoes in 2021 was US$310 million – an increase of 71.46% on 2020 (US$180.8 million).
About half of Vietnam’s mangoes are produced in the south. Most fruit is consumed locally, leaving around 20% for the export market. There are 4 major varieties grown, and the project focused on the 2 most popular – Cat Chu and Cat Hoa Luc.
Mr Hoang says mango cultivation has the ability to improve the livelihood of thousands of smallholder farmers. A hectare of mangoes yields about US$15,000–20,000 per year as income.
A number of mango farmers from southern Vietnam are former rice farmers, attracted to mango cultivation because of higher returns.
Interventions and value chain approach
The ACIAR-supported project has studied ‘practical’ interventions, testing, and prioritising those that have demonstrated success in supply chains.
The high cost of production for mangoes has a significant impact on the profitability of crops for farmers. Mr Hoang says many farmers lack knowledge of good management practices (GMP) and tend to overuse fertilisers, which contributes to reduced fruit quality in the supply chain.
The trial application of improved technologies and management practices have demonstrated mango farmers of the Cat Chu varieties increase income by 17% as the fruit received better grading, commanding a higher price. Mr Hoang estimates that farmers may see an average increase of US$2,000 in seasonal income.
A key intervention of the project focused on improving the presentation of mangoes, to raise their profile in the market.
Professor Roberts says much of the research focused on technical aspects of mango supply chains. This includes both the consumer end of the chain and refining technologies to improve handling and shelf-life.
Sap-burn and hot water treatments have made the fruit look better and last longer, which is important for retailers and vendors. After treatment, mangoes in supermarkets can last between 7 and10 days. An increase from just 3 or4 days.
Sap-burn management is used to maintain the visual integrity of the fruit while hot water treatment is generally used to disinfect mango for fruit fly. The fruit is dipped into hot water with the duration of dipping time dependent on the type of cultivar and size. This is applied before the packing process.
Professor Roberts emphasises that when studying demonstration supply chains, it became apparent that ‘interventions or changes at the demand end of the chain were necessary’.
The trial application of improved technologies and management practices have demonstrated mango farmers of the Cat Chu varieties increase income by 17% as the fruit became bigger resulting in higher grading which commands a higher price. Professor Roberts estimates that farmers may see an average increase of US$2,000 in seasonal income as a result of both reducing cost of fertilizing and increasing price of mango grade 1.
Raising the profile of mangoes in consumer minds by improving packaging methods and instore display, associated with premium products, has contributed to an increased value in the marketplace.
Based on the project activities and evaluations, mango farmers from southern Vietnam, if they adopt practices put forward by the project, could see an increase in production of 25–30%, as well as a decrease in postharvest losses.
The project also trialled the introduction of a freezing protocol for mangoes, which would give farmers another trading channel for fruit that doesn’t meet quality requirements for being sold fresh. If adopted by the industry, says Dr Robin, this would provide another revenue stream and reduce on-farm losses.
Scaling-up adoption of interventions
The research team from the project are enthusiastic about working further with supply chain stakeholders from southern Vietnam. They hope to implement proven interventions which can deliver increased income potential for farmers.
It’s also important to expand the supply chain of the mango to include other parts of the value chain like the processing industry such as those which produces juices and jams.
The longer-term plan for the southern Vietnam mango industry is to implement traceability and accreditation. This work is being continued by other international agencies and government bodies.