When Vietnam sells its products to the world, it only has a large output. It forgets to tell the story about the culture, history, and the farming process of the land where the products are born.
“Five years ago, during a trip to Japan, I learned how Japanese farmers created the most expensive bunch of Ruby roman grapes in the world, saw with my own eyes how an egg mango orchard was taken care of, the methods and strict standards… Each fruit created there is truly a miracle. Two years later in Vietnam, I spent 11 million VND ($500) to buy a bunch of Ruby roman grapes and 3 million VND to buy a pair of egg mangoes wrapped and packaged in a beautiful box,” said Ms. Nguyen Ngoc Kim Anh from Tay Ho District, Hanoi.
She said that she spent a large amount of money to buy these fruits to eat because of the quality and production. She opened two high-end Japanese fruit stores in Hanoi.
Japanese farmers with world’s number 1 fruits
Japan has no advantage in agriculture, because of a lack of agricultural land. There were only 1.3 million farming households in 2019, and more than 65% of farmers were over 60 years old. However, on average each Japanese farmer annually exports agricultural products worth 40,000 USD, compared to only 1,000 USD for Vietnamese farmers.
The Japanese not only apply digital technology to agricultural production, but they also know how to tell the story of their journey to create special fruits for the world.
In the Vietnamese market, Japanese apples have been a popular item in recent years, although the price ranges from 1.5-2 million VND ($70-90)/kg. Along with the expensive price, consumers remember the story of farmer Kimura who spent 10 years to create a magical apple variety for Japan.
The story took place decades ago when Kimura decided to return to Hirosaki, Aomori Prefecture to get married and become an apple farmer to continue the family business. The Iwaki region at that time cultivated apples, but agricultural techniques in Japan still depended heavily on pesticides. Kimura’s four apple orchards also bear fruit thanks to regular spraying of pesticide. The apples in the Iwaki region had the same taste.
However, his wife’s health was not good, and she became sensitive to pesticides. Because of his love for his wife, he gave up the old farming method. But without spraying pesticide, apple trees did not bloom and bear fruit.
After many years trying various planting methods, the Japanese farmer realized that the problem was not disease but the soil, the relationship with nature, insects, and animals living in the surrounding area, and the water source. Apples must be in a close relationship with nature – an ecosystem for them to flourish and grow successfully. He experimented with a variety of soils for several years, carefully studying insects at the local library.
After eight years of hard work with the new method, one of his more than 400 apple trees blossomed and then produced two fruits in the fall. The two apples were like a miracle in the garden that had been arid and exhausted for decades. Mr. Kimura called them two “miracle apples”.
The next season, apple trees bloomed white all over the garden. He was no longer afraid of insect damage when the garden was restored to a natural balance. The methods he used did not disturb the order of nature as they are probiotics that are safe for plants.
A perfect process was born. In spring when apple trees blossom, he manually removes individual flowers and leaves only a few of the best flowers for pollination. When the apple tree bears green fruit, he continues to prune the fruit and leaves only one fruit per branch. By the end of autumn and the beginning of winter, apples begin to ripen red evenly, with a large and round butt, meeting the standard for harvesting.
With the farming method, Mr. Kimura’s apples have changed Japanese agriculture, especially apple farming. The apples he planted can be kept for a long time without wilting, with sweet fragrance and beautiful colors. The “miracle” apples are praised by politicians and celebrities, and are served as a dessert in Tokyo’s luxury restaurants, where you have to reserve a table a year in advance to have a chance to enjoy it.
Apples have also become the number one fruit that Japan exports to the world and brings high income to farmers.
However, in Japan, there is not only the story of the miracle apple, but also stories about Ruby roman grapes, peony grapes, watermelons, or sun-egg mango… Each fruit has its own flavor, a different story associated with the land, people and strict planting and harvesting processes.
These stories are conveyed to consumers who then appreciate this achievement. Because of that, there are still fruit auctions every year in Japan. Some people are willing to spend tens of thousands of USD to buy two mangoes, a pair of melons or a bunch of grapes.
In high-end fruit stores in Vietnam, Japanese fruit is always an expensive item, most of which cost millions, even tens of millions of VND, but customers are still “queuing” to buy.
Vietnamese farmers plant trees and learn to tell stories
Contrary to Japan, Vietnam is a country with advantages in agricultural development with large fruit areas. However, when Vietnam sells its products to the world, it only has a large output. It forgets to tell the story about the culture, history, and the farming process of the land where the products are born.
With many years of experience in the retail industry and distributing Vietnamese fruits and vegetables, Paul Le – Vice Chairman of Central Retail Group – said the positive point for Vietnamese vegetables and fruits is that farmers are very active in planting delicious and safe products. However, they need to build a “story” for each product from the land, the way to grow and the love for their products, then consumers will believe.
He said that Vietnam has a cultural tradition with more than 4,000 years of history, and the land and climate are advantages for farmers to create the most delicious agricultural products in the world. Like Vietnamese lychees, he believes it is the most delicious fruit compared to similar products of other countries. Dragon fruit, mango, pomelo and durian will have many opportunities and be able to compete with products in the world.
“However, these products of Vietnam need to have an introductory story about how delicious it is, and from what land, and how the process is done for domestic consumers so the whole world can know,” he said.
Minister of Information and Communications Nguyen Manh Hung once shared that the product of each piece of land must have its own brand, origin, and not be counterfeit. For example, the value of a banana consists of the value of the sun and the wind in that area, the land there, the banana variety, the caregiver, and the way each family grows the banana trees.
Many businesses don’t want to invest in farm produce processing because it requires huge capital and brings low profits. Meanwhile, farmers face high risks and take losses during bountiful crops as they are not organized in a coordinated way.
In Vietnam, there are countless famous and delicious specialty fruits. One day soon Vietnam will have more high-class fruit brands that attract domestic and international consumers.