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Ben Tre The “Capital” of Coconuts

( Update: 22/03/2021 )

Ben Tre The “Capital” of Coconuts

With vast gardens of green coconut trees, Ben Tre Province is considered the “capital” of coconuts in Vietnam. For the local people, coconut trees have a special place in their cultural life as well as the economic development process.

 The coconut region of Ben Tre
Situated in the Cuu Long River Delta, Ben Tre Province has favourable soil conditions for the growth of coconut trees. The trees here have a lot of fruit which has a higher content of oil than the coconuts grown in other regions of the country.
Compared with other plants, coconut trees in Ben Tre have the highest value. The fruit is used to make everything, from food and drinks to household utensils, fine arts items and to build houses. It has brought prosperity to Ben Tre farmers.

The well-known green coconuts of Ben Tre. Photo: Le Minh

The peaceful beauty of the coconut forests in Ben Tre. Photo: Le Minh

Coconuts are one of the main materials used to make many well-known products in Ben Tre. Photo: Nguyen Luan

Selling coconuts on the Ham Luong River. Photo: Nguyen Luan

Drying coconut fiber. Photo: Nguyen Luan

Thanh Long Coconut Candy Factory. Photo: Le Minh

Making coconut jelly in Minh Chau Workshop. Photo: Le Minh

Packing coconut jelly products in Minh Chau Coconut Jelly Workshop. Photo: Le Minh

Packaging dried coconut meat. Photo: Le Minh

We visited a coconut garden owned by Do Thanh Thuong who is called “The king of Ben Tre coconuts” in Long Hung Commune, Giong Trom District. In 1999, he was awarded the title “The most excellent coconut grower in Vietnam” by the Asia – Pacific Coconut Community (APCC). In 2004 this organization gave him the “Tree of Life” award. While leading us to visit his 2.5ha garden of coconut trees laden with fruit, he said: “In 2011 my family earned a total income of nearly 300 million from coconuts, excluding the fruit left on trees.” 
From April 4 – 9, 2012, Ben Tre will host the 3rd Ben Tre Coconut Festival with the theme “Ben Tre on the way of integration and development” to honour and promote the coconut sector. It is expected that many businesses at home and from the member countries of the Asia – Pacific Coconut Community will participate in the festival.
In 2011, Ben Tre Province had over 51,000ha of coconut trees, of which over 41,000ha yielded an output of over 400 million fruit/year. The province has about 70 enterprises and 1,400 facilities with nearly 50,000 workers engaged in producing and processing coconut products. There is a 100% foreign-funded company and a joint venture company with Sri Lanka.
Talking about the benefits of the coconut processing industry, Ho Vinh Sang, Chairman of Ben Tre Coconut Association said: “If we sell a coconut via small trading ways we get only about 11,000 VND, while a coconut processed into a product for export will bring more than 100,000 VND, more than 10 times higher”. This shows that the coconut processing industry can bring great economic efficiency. It also brings jobs for the local people.
Now, Ben Tre has more than 40 categories of products made from coconuts, like dried scraped coconut meat, coconut fibers, coconut candy and coconut jelly. They have been exported to many countries around the world, such as China, Taiwan, India, Cambodia, Laos, the US, France, Canada and Australia. In addition, there are over 100 types of fine art items made from coconut tree, coconut fruit, coconut shells and stems, and they are much sought after by consumers. Every year, coconut products account for about 50% of the province’s export turnover.

Strategy of the coconut region
Defining the coconut tree as a strategic crop in the economic development of the province’s targets from now until 2020, the authorities pay great attention to investing in the coconut processing industry and considers it one of the two key industries to develop the local economy. Over the past years, the leaders of Ben Tre Province and departments have made great efforts to map out a sustainable direction for the development of coconut trees and implemented many solutions to expand the consumption market.
Besides stabilizing the domestic market, the province has expanded the market to 80 countries in the world. Europe is defined as the target market; America is a potential market with North America, mainly the US, Canada and Mexico as a focus; Africa will be a new market because it has great demands for different categories of goods and the requirements on the goods’ quality are suitable to the production capacity of the province.

Ben Tre is famous for handicraft products made from coconut. Photo: Le Minh

Ben Tre is famous for handicraft products made from coconut. Photo: Le Minh

Ben Tre is famous for handicraft products made from coconut. Photo: Le Minh

Ben Tre coconuts are well-known around the country. Photo: Le Minh

To be able to supply enough materials for the coconut processing industry, Ben Tre Province is establishing the specialized coconut-growing areas in Cho Lach, Chau Thanh, Mo Cay and Giong Trom Districts and applying the model of household’s cultivation. The province has implemented many support projects, such as improving about 20,000ha of perennial coconut trees, growing alternately coconut trees and cocoa trees, increasing the acreage of high-yield coconut trees and applying the model of growing coconut trees along with raising shrimp.
Great investment has been made for the research, hybridization and selection of coconut varieties. As a result, a lot of new and hybrid coconut varieties have been produced. Some salinity-resistant varieties are being experimentally cultivated to adapt to the climate change which is happening rapidly in the Mekong River Delta.
Ben Tre is striving to increase the coconut area to over 53,000ha by 2020 and reach an output of 500 million coconuts/year. The province is also making efforts to make coconut trees soon to be recognized as a key plant of the nation. With this strategy, it is hoped that in the near future, the coconut processing industry will develop strongly, making an effective contribution to the socio-economic development of the province.