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Ben Tre's Famous Specialty: Fresh Coconut Opens Major Export Opportunities to Large Markets

Updated: Jan 9

Coconut has become an integral part of every individual's life. In Vietnam, coconut trees flourish from the northern to the southern regions, particularly in coastal provinces. Notably, Ben Tre stands out as the nation's premier coconut hub, renowned for having the highest coconut cultivation area in the country.

In recent years, the cultivation of drinking coconuts has been on the rise in Ben Tre. This surge is attributed to its high economic efficiency, driven by the relatively stable market prices. The total area dedicated to drinking coconuts in Ben Tre is around 15,865 hectares, constituting 20.28% of the province's total coconut acreage. The proactive adoption of technological innovations has led to an improvement in the quality of coconut products. As a result, the industrial production value of coconut-related products in Ben Tre has reached approximately 3,300 billion VND per year, contributing to over 12% of the province's total industrial production value. This success underscores Ben Tre's pivotal role in Vietnam's coconut industry, showcasing the province's commitment to economic prosperity and technological advancement in agricultural practices.

Ben Tre leverages its strengths, increasing exports of processed coconut products. 

The province currently hosts around 180 businesses and nearly 2,400 production facilities processing coconut-based products, including items from coconut husks (coconut fiber, coconut peat, and related products), coconut shell products (activated carbon, charcoal, and handmade coconut art), coconut meat products (pre-processed coconut meat, grated coconut meat, coconut milk, coconut milk powder, coconut candy, and various cosmetics), and coconut water products (coconut jelly, canned coconut water).

Annually, these businesses produce nearly 45,000 tons of grated coconut meat, 85 million liters of coconut water, 44 million liters of canned coconut water, 39,000 tons of coconut fiber, and 12,700 tons of activated carbon.

Currently, Ben Tre exports over 40 types of processed coconut products to numerous countries worldwide, such as China, India, Cambodia, Laos, the United States, France, and Canada. Additionally, more than 100 coconut-based handmade art products, crafted from coconut trees, coconut fruits, coconut shells, and coconut husks, are also in high demand.

Each year, coconut-based products contribute around 20-30% to Ben Tre's export turnover. Notable items include grated coconut meat, coconut fiber, coconut candy, and coconut jelly. The province aims to strive for an annual increase of 17.2% in coconut production and processing value, an average growth of 23.6% in export turnover, with a target of reaching USD 1 billion by 2025.

Building the coconut value chain

Building the coconut value chain
Building the coconut value chain

Currently, 32 cooperatives and 30 cooperative unions participate in collaboration, organizing production with the guidance of leading enterprises in the coconut product chain. Various large-scale production models, following Good Agricultural Practices (GAP) and organic production, have been established and are growing. The coconut product chain, especially, is a relatively extensive chain with approximately 30% of coconut products being deeply processed for export. The province has over 18,000 hectares of organic coconut, with 11,630 hectares certified according to standards of the US, Japan, EU, China, South Korea, and Taiwan (China). Ben Tre's coconut products are present in more than 90 countries and territories globally, entering markets with high standards and potential such as Europe, the US, and the Middle East.

Local coconut production and consumption collaboration models are expanding between farmers and businesses, cooperatives, cooperative unions, and processing businesses, contributing to the overall development of the coconut industry. In preparation for exporting fresh coconuts to the US and China, the agricultural sector in Ben Tre is refining coconut production processes, improving coconut quality, assisting businesses in establishing cultivation areas, and preparing relevant documentation in accordance with regulations before exporting coconuts to these markets.

Mr. Huynh Quang Duc, Deputy Director of the Department of Agriculture and Rural Development of Ben Tre, stated that preparing for the export of fresh coconuts from Vietnam to the US is a lengthy and challenging process. After being approved by the Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service (APHIS) of the US Department of Agriculture, Ben Tre province will focus on developing raw material areas and enhancing the quality of the production chain, with the foundation being cooperatives and cooperative unions.

Mr. Huynh Quang Duc further mentioned that, alongside the US market, negotiations for the official export of coconuts to China are expected to yield results by the end of this year or early 2024. The expansion of official exports to both the Chinese and US markets has provided significant motivation for enterprises within and outside the province to participate in registering and building cultivation zone codes and standardized packaging facilities for export. This opens up a bright future for the coconut industry in the province and Vietnam as a whole.

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