Farmers and traders in Ha Tinh Province are busy with the harvest of Phuc Trach pomelos, a local specialty known for its juicy, crispy sacs and sweet and sour taste.
Huong Trach Commune in Huong Khe District is a Phuc Trach pomelo hub with a planting area of 360 hectares. One household here owns one or two hectares of land with up to 400 pomelo trees on average.
Cao Quoc Hoi, the commune’s chairman, said the fruit is the main source of livelihood in the area, and a family earns VND10-200 million ($430-8,620) from each harvest. “The common monthly income of households in the region is VND70-80 million.”
The commune has seven pomelo trees that are certified as “alpha” by the province Department of Agriculture and Rural Development, which means they can be used for propagation.
The most healthy trees, with three harvests a year, are used for propagation.
Branches measuring 1.5-2 cm across are cut open, soil and moisture are placed inside, and they are covered with plastic bags. A few months later they drop roots. This is usually done in February or October and the plants fruit after two years.
Bui Van Phuong, 61, of Phu Le Village said pomelo trees have a lifespan of 12-19 years and must be replaced after that. On average they grow 5 m tall and produce 100-300 fruits a year.
“I planted 50 pomelo trees, and this harvest I am likely to earn more than VND50 million after deducting expenses.”
In order to avoid exposure to the sun and insects, many families buy yellow plastic paper bags to wrap the fruit.
When the trees bear fruits, bamboo poles are placed under branches to prevent them from touching the ground since this could damage them.
Before picking, people take off the yellow bags from the fruits for reuse one more time.
The major harvest season takes place from late August to late September. Traders come to the commune to negotiate prices with owners and buy the fruits. They hire people to pick the fruits and put them in baskets and bags and take them away in trolleys.
“Phuc Trach pomelo is juicy, has crispy sacs and a sweet and sour taste and is considered a specialty of the region,” Nguyen Thi Phong, 70, of Tan Trung Village said. “Besides selling them, I often give them as gifts to relatives.”
Phuc Trach pomelos usually weigh 1-1.7 kg. Their price depends on size, ranging from VND10,000 ($0.4) for small ones and VND30,000 for large. In the market they cost VND5,000-10,000 higher.
Commune chairman Hoi said: “This year prices dropped due to the Covid-19 pandemic. Last year a large pomelo cost VND60,000, now it is half.”
The pomelo gardens always have people working. An orchard with 100 trees takes workers one day to harvest.
The round, juicy, golden pomelos are put in the cart after being picked.
In the early afternoon every day people in the commune use motorbikes and cars to carry bags of pomelos to a market in Huong Khe District to sell.
Phuc Trach pomelos are also popular in Hanoi and Ho Chi Minh City.
“Every day I buy around 1,000 pomelos and earn a profit of VND300,000 ($13),” a trader said.