Growing watermelons in Vietnam
20 April 2012
Nam Phi Nguyen is one of Vietnam‘s leading watermelon growers. Having been in the business for over ten years, Nguyen, who is on the front cover of Syngenta’s 2011 Annual Report, is now one of Vietnam‘s first farmers to grow Mat Troi Do seedless watermelons – a Syngenta variety that has become synonymous with the traditional Tết (Vietnam Lunar New Year) holidays.
Nam Phi Nguyen, also known as Nho in his local community, started his watermelon business on 0.6 hectares of land. He grew two watermelon crops per year and his yield was some 25 tons/hectare (up to 10.000 melons per hectare). Today, Nguyen has extended his land to three hectares and grows three to four watermelon crops per year, yielding some 30-40 tons/hectare. “I really enjoy being a grower,” says Nguyen. “I can generate a good income, especially from the seedless watermelons, allowing me to support my parents and send my daughter to school.”
Understanding grower challenges
High pest pressure and erratic climate conditions are two of the most difficult challenges Nguyen and other growers across Vietnam are facing, which is why Syngenta also provides the expertise and support growers need to run a productive, profitable and quality-orientated farm. “Syngenta provides agricultural extension services, such as farmer meetings, to help share knowledge and best practices, as well as trainings to help farmers use agricultural technologies safely and efficiently,” says Nguyen.
“When I first saw the trials of Syngenta’s seedless watermelon seeds, I immediately signed up for the program,” says Nguyen. “I wanted to learn more about the potential yields and most importantly, how to grow this seed in the best possible way by using the right mix of products. At the moment, I am carrying out trials to grow watermelons on trellises. Every day I learn something new. As growers, we should be keen to learn new practices, especially if it means we can increase quality and productivity at the same time.”
Building networks and developing markets
Nguyen works closely with his peers and neighbors to not only share knowledge and advice, but also develops markets. “I spend significant time building my network with traders and other growers so that we can sell our products at the end,” said Nguyen. “There are a lot of low quality watermelons at a competitive price on the market so we must be sure we can sell, otherwise we cannot cover the high costs of renting the land and paying for labor. I see many opportunities ahead. Our market is demanding more high quality produce so I will continue to develop my farm to take advantage of this.”
Mat Troi Do seedless watermelon seeds were launched in Vietnam in 2008. They are recognized by the consumer from their striped skin, round shape, and light green color.