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Passionate About Fruit – Plant & Food Research Launches New Project In Viet Nam

A five-year New Zealand Government-funded project to help Viet Nam build a more lucrative passionfruit export industry was formally launched by the Prime Ministers of Viet Nam and New Zealand in Wellington today.

New Zealand Prime Minister Christopher Luxon announced the NZ$6.24m investment in Viet Nam’s horticulture sector, called the ‘Viet Nam Climate-Smart Fruit Value Chain project’, known as VietFruit.

The project is a key element within New Zealand’s international development cooperation framework with Viet Nam. It aims to support the Southeast Asian country’s agricultural sector, build its resilience to climate change and disasters, and help it develop a more highly skilled and educated workforce. As a member, along with New Zealand, of the Comprehensive and Progressive Agreement for Trans-Pacific Partnership (CPTPP) free trade agreement, Viet Nam is becoming increasingly important as a trade partner. For instance, in the year ending June 2023, Viet Nam was the second leading export destination for New Zealand apples, after China.

Plant & Food Research will deliver the VietFruit project, drawing on its decade-long track record of problem-solving and achieving impact through the application of scientific knowledge in conjunction with Vietnamese partners.

“We have deep partnerships with organisations in Viet Nam and have created real value,” said Dr Suzie Newman, Head of International Development at Plant & Food Research.

“We have worked with smallholder farmers, agronomists, scientists, food companies, exporters and officials at Vietnamese Government Ministries like Agriculture & Rural Development (MARD) and Science & Technology.

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The VietFruit project has Plant & Food Research working with two Vietnamese institutes: the Southern Horticulture Research Institute (SOFRI) and the Northern Mountainous Agriculture and Forestry Science Institute (NOMASFI). Vietnamese firm Nafoods Group is also a commercial partner.

This project aims to deliver three key outcomes:

· increase the productivity and resilience of the passionfruit production system

· improve postharvest and processing technologies

· conduct sector-wide training that benefits smallholder farmers and businesses.

Project scoping followed by early implementation began last year. To date the project’s scientists have assessed disease and climate change impact challenges, begun field trials and conducted initial postharvest loss assessments along the value chain.

“The benefits of success will include increased incomes for smallholder farmers, distributors and exporters, improved fruit quality and more efficient growing and postharvest practices. Overall, the project will achieve a real lift in environmental and economic sustainability for Viet Nam’s passionfruit sector. It’s a high-value export and a valuable addition to the economy of Viet Nam.”

Plant & Food Research has a growing track record of delivering impact through international development projects stretching from India to South-East Asia, Africa, the Pacific and the Caribbean. Funding is predominantly from New Zealand’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Trade, supplemented by contracts with agencies including the World Bank and the Australian Centre for International Agricultural Research (ACIAR). With close to 1000 people across New Zealand and the world, and an international network of scientific collaborators, Plant & Food Research pulls together teams with the right expertise for every project, working with in-country experts to ensure solutions are fit for purpose.

Background: Other New Zealand Government-funded Plant & Food Research projects in Viet Nam 

Dragon Fruit: For the past decade, Plant & Food Research has worked to develop Viet Nam’s dragon fruit industry and improve the income of smallholder farmers. Together with local pathologists, its scientists worked out how to control the canker disease that was killing crops. Fungicide use was cut by up to 33%. A new more productive growing system was introduced. Yield doubled and fruit quality improved. Postharvest improvements have included forced air cooling and automated fruit washing.

Three new varieties of dragon fruit have been bred and commercialised. The varieties offer novel flavours and colours for global consumers. They’ve also been bred for improved quality and disease resistance. SOFRI and PFR have signed an agreement for the NZ firm VentureFruit to sell the rights for these varieties to be grown under license in other countries. This will provide an ongoing royalty stream for SOFRI and Plant & Food Research.

In Bihn Dinh: province Plant & Food Research has worked with the local government agricultural department to create Good Agricultural Practice protocols to deliver vegetables that are safe for both consumers and growers. A new product brand for safe vegetables has been launched and 2000 farmers have increased their household income by 30%.

In Dak Nong: Plant & Food Research worked with trading firm Sam Agritech as they sought to become a large-scale avocado exporter. Improved nursery practices were developed to reduce disease in mature plants, and protocols created for tree training, disease and insect control, postharvest and supply chain activity.

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