Mutant orchid scams push many to brink of bankruptcy in Vietnam

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Mutant orchid scams push many to brink of bankruptcy in Vietnam

Duy Pham, owner of Kamy Farm in Quang Ngai Province, central Vietnam, continues taking care of his orchid garden, saying that the current orchid prices are suitable for those collecting the plants as a hobby. Photo: T.M. / Tuoi Tre

A mutant orchid gardener from the Central Highlands province of Lam Dong, a big name in the community of mutant orchid collectors, recently posted on his Facebook account: “I suffered losses of VND80 billion [US$3.5 million]. I sold everything I had to pay VND50 billion ($2.1 million). I’m trying my best to pay off the remainder for you guys.”

This gardener then live-streamed and said that mutant orchid prices, which were inflated for some time, took a nosedive.

He also showed a host of examples of mutant orchids where the prices went from millions or hundreds of millions of dong (VND1 million = US$44) per centimeter now sold for thousands of dong or millions of dong.

Mutant orchid bubble bursts

Many experienced gardeners issued similar warnings when mutant orchid prices rose crazily, leaving many people heading toward bankruptcy.

An orchid collector named N. in Quang Ngai Province, central Vietnam spent nearly VND150 million ($6,606) buying mutant orchids in mid-2020 when the species were being actively traded in the local market.

He bought the mutant orchids named Phu Tho at VND500,000 ($22) per centimeter and Hien Oanh at VND1.5-2 million ($66-88) per centimeter, which were deemed ‘national orchids’ by collectors in the field.

By the end of 2020, N. had sold the orchids and earned a profit five times higher than the investment, so he decided to go big in this business.

He took out loans of over VND300 million ($13,215), but orchid prices suddenly surged while he had yet to buy the plants.

Having regretted selling the orchids too early, N. decided to buy Hong Minh Chau and Bach Tuyet (Snow White) mutant orchids at VND100-200 million ($4,400-8,800) per centimeter and believed that he could earn a big sum of money from the sale of these flowering plants.

However, mutant orchid prices then nosedived.

Earlier, he spent over VND1 billion ($43,790) on reinvestment in the orchid business, but now he could only rake in less than VND100 million for selling all of them, he said.

Another orchid aficionado named T. in Hanoi also shared that he used to earn around VND10 billion ($439,500) by trading mutant orchids, so he decided to mortgage his house for an additional VND15 billion ($660,000) to upgrade his orchid garden by buying Ngoc Son Cuoc and Nguoi Dep Khong Ten (Nameless Beauty) mutant orchids.

In early 2021, someone asked to buy his Ngoc Son Cuoc and Nguoi Dep Khong Ten orchids at almost VND30 billion ($1.3 million). T. said no but regretted it later.

Many friends and relatives of N. also made huge investments in orchid businesses and are currently drowning in debt.

Mutant orchid prices were at their peak from September 2020 to March 2021, with many transactions reportedly worth dozens to hundreds of billions of dong.

Q., a man in north-central Nghe An Province, said he purchased one kie (the bud arising from a knot in the stem) from a Bach Tuyet mutant orchid at VND500 million ($21,961).

Two days later, one person asked to buy the kie from him at VND600 million. That was the time he realized it was a price bubble and decided to quit the business.

But many of his friends held high expectations for the business and were forced into bankruptcy when it collapsed.

Returning to real value

Those incurring huge losses from trading mutant orchids are usually new to the orchid hobby and entered the mutant orchid market, spending large sums of money, pinning high hopes on making a quick fortune, instead of buying popular orchids.

But mutant orchids which cost billions of dong are witnessing the steepest declines in prices.

The prices of five-petal Phu Tho mutant orchid and other five-petal species fell to VND50,000-200,000 ($2.19-8.77) per centimeter.

The prices of five-petal Phu Tho mutant orchid and other five-petal species fell to VND50,000-200,000 ($2.2-8.8) per centimeter.

As a case in point, the Co Do (Red Flag), Bao Duy, Nguoi Dep Khong Ten, Doi Mat Pleyku (Pleiku Eyes), and Kinh Bac mutant orchids which had all fetched dozens of billions of dong per kie are no longer actively traded.

Recently, a major mutant orchid garden offered a kie of the five-petal Long Khanh orchid for sale at over VND15.5 billion ($680,154), saying that the kie would be delivered after 45 days.

This would be a normal deal in late 2020. However, at present, this quotation immediately was criticized by mutant orchid collectors who called the seller a scammer.

As evaluated by orchid collectors, orchid prices are gradually returning to their original value. People buy orchids as a hobby rather than for the sake of doing business.

Duy Pham, owner of a Kamy orchid garden in the central city of Quang Ngai, said he still can sell mutant orchids but at lower prices.

“I sell Phu Tho mutant orchids at VND5,000-15,000 per centimeter, Hien Oanh at VND20,000-30,000 per centimeter. For more beautiful orchids like Bach Tuyet, each centimeter is priced at VND5 million,” Duy said.

“I think orchid gardeners can make a good living if they collect orchids as a hobby and propagate them to sell at normal prices. They are even cheaper than industrial orchids.”

This view is also echoed by a Dak Lak-based garden owner who considered taking care of mutant orchids as a job which generates better income than other farming work.

The garden owner is satisfied with the current prices of mutant orchids and continues doing his business, expressing his hope that more people would welcome mutant orchids like other plants and buy them for the beauty rather than the price.

In northern Vietnam, some mutant orchids worth VND300 million ($13,187) per centimeter earlier are presently priced at VND3 million per centimeter, but still saw few buyers.

Tran Thanh Phuc, residing in northern Tuyen Quang Province, said he and his friend visited northern Quang Ninh Province last year to buy two kies of Hong Yen Thuy mutant orchid at VND20 million ($879).

There was a time that the Hong Yen Thuy orchid was traded at VND15 million ($658) per centimeter, prompting Phuc to expect he could earn dozens of millions of dong in profit by selling seedlings of the plant.

But now, no one buys the orchid that Phuc heavily invested in.

Being nagged at by his wife, Phuc plucked the two orchid plants while he got drunk, and stir-fried them with garlic!

Mutant orchid market in Ho Chi Minh City remains gloomy

In Ho Chi Minh City, where the number of major gardens and collectors of mutant orchids is at the top in the country, the mutant orchid market has turned dull, with the sale of costly species going stale, according to an individual who was an active seller in the city that was forced to change jobs.

“I have put mutant orchids up for sale over the past few months, but no one wanted to buy after they knew the orchids sell for hundreds of millions of dong,” he said.

“Meanwhile, those valued at dozens of thousands of dong were actively traded.”

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