Lying along the Red River, Van Nam is covered with banana trees, from villages and hamlets’ roads to gardens, making it the “banana capital” of Phuc Tho District, Hanoi.
Encouraged by Van Nam Agricultural Cooperative to take advantage of the fertile land along the Red River bank to grow some crops, many farmers have cultivated bananas for years, earning a good profit annually.
One of them, Doan Hac Hai, a resident in Van Nam commune, was among the first locals to start growing banana trees in the Red River riparian area. So far, his banana acreage has reached nearly three hectares, bringing him about VND500 million ($21,800) in turnover per year.
Another farmer, Bui Duy Hung, who switched his crops from corn and beans to bananas a few years ago, has seen his profits triple. “For example, on nearly one hectare of corn, we earned about VND40 million ($1,700) yearly. Now in the same area, we make about VND120 million ($5,200) from bananas. The income could be higher, depending on the price each year,” he told The Hanoi Times.
“Also, the work of growing bananas is lighter than growing corn, since bananas do not need as much care and attention.”
Corn and beans used to be the key crop of Van Nam, according to Bui Anh Dung, Deputy Director of Van Nam Agricultural Cooperative. However, many farmers switched to growing bananas since 2012, with the technological support from the Hanoi Agricultural Extension Center under the Hanoi Department of Agriculture and Rural Development.
The Center provided banana varieties and trained farmers on growing techniques, care, and pest control for banana trees. Furthermore, it also guided farmers on VietGAP standards compliance and technology application for the preservation before and after harvest.
Nowadays, bananas have become the cash crop of Van Nam Commune, involving more than 250 cooperative members who grow the fruit on an area of about 100 hectares.
“Bananas are easy to grow and care for while generating better income. That is why many farmers have been willing to invest in this type of plant. To begin with, their standard of living has risen. Some have built better and bigger houses, bought good furniture and even cars,” he said.
Thanks to the fertile riparian soil, which is beneficial for banana trees, Van Nam bananas are big and sweet with a typical flavor and scent. They meet the national standards for quantity, quality, and design.
Van Nam banana products were recognized as a collective trademark by the National Office of Intellectual Property of Vietnam under the Ministry of Science and Technology in 2016.
It is also one of the first products of Phuc Tho district to be rated with three stars under the One Commune One Product (OCOP) Program by the Ministry of Agriculture and Rural Development.
According to experienced banana growers, there are three core points that make up the brand of Van Nam Banana, including sandy soil; healthy seedlings; and the traditional methods to ripen bananas.
Sandy soil with a pH of 6 to 6.5, free of heavy metals and chemical residues are considered ideal for growing bananas. Being “fed” with nutrients from the Red River silt, Van Nam Agricultural Cooperative’s banana plants look green and healthy, laden with big fruits.
To provide nutrients for plants, farmers usually use organic fertilizers. The traditional method will help the plant grow evenly, bearing bananas with a delicious taste. They also use sacks to cover the whole bunch of bananas to protect bananas from rime and insects.
When the fruit becomes ripe enough, it will be harvested by the farmers. The whole bunches of bananas are stored in closed rooms and remain untouched for five days. Later on, incense will be burned in the room within about 24 to 36 hours, then the gentle heat will make the bananas ripen naturally.
Currently, many banana varieties are grown by members of Van Nam Agricultural Cooperative, of which the most popular is the one researched by the Fruit and Vegetables Research Institute. In addition, the cooperative also supplies materials and guide farmers on banana care techniques, especially helping them sell banana products.
Most of Van Nam bananas are consumed as fresh fruits in the Hanoi market, schools, and military zones, and exported to other countries, according to Doan Van Thang, Director of Van Nam Agricultural Cooperative.
“In order to increase the value of bananas, the cooperative has recently invested VND150 million ($6,500) to set up a cold storage system to help preserve bananas for a longer time,” Thang told The Hanoi Times.
In the coming time, the cooperative will research and invest in dried bananas and freeze-dried bananas processing.
“We also expect to receive financial support from the Hanoi Cooperative Alliance and the local authorities so that we can continue to apply modern technology to preserve and process banana products. Diversifying banana products is also a good way to expand the market and increase value for this fruit,” he stated.
Van Nam commune also plans to expand the banana-growing area, aiming to develop a chain of production, according to Dang Viet Hung, Chairman of the People’s Committee of Van Nam Commune.