Many farmers in the Central Highlands province of Lam Dong’s Da Lat City, the country's largest artichoke cultivation area, have been clearing their crops to make room for other plants and flowers, which they hope will yield higher economic effectiveness.
The vegetable, useful in making teas, herbal medicines, and certain culinary products, was once considered a ‘gold mine’ for local farmers, but now has seen the areas of its crops gradually narrowed.
There are only some 50 hectares of artichoke crops left around the city, an enormous decline of 75 percent compared to 1998, according to the municipal economics bureau.
In late May, after years of growing the vegetable, Le Van Dat resorted to emptying his 10,000-square-meter artichoke crop to switch to gerberas.
“Artichoke is no longer attractive to farmers as it yields poor income, while the crop takes as long as 10 months to mature,” said Dat.
A number of other farmers have done the same with their artichoke fields to seek better revenues from other crops.
“Farmers can only pocket VND15 million in profits from each artichoke field,” said Pham Van Kien, another artichoke grower.
“Meanwhile, if they grow chrysanthemum on that same area of field, they can reap profits from three harvests a year of a whopping VND20 million each.”
Ho Ngoc Dinh, chairman of the Farmer Association of Ward 12, which has the largest crop of artichoke in Da Lat, said farmers used to be able to sell the products at high prices, despite low input costs, years ago.
“Things have completely changed today, and the growing areas have narrowed, input cost has soared, and prices have slumped,” he said.
Nguyen Duc Cu, former deputy head of the city’s economics bureau, said the small market for the vegetable is the main cause for the disappearance of artichoke in Da Lat.
“Artichoke buds are consumed mostly by the domestic market, but there are very few consumers of this delicacy,” said Cu.
“Da Lat produces around 3,000 tons of fresh artichoke annually, but only a very small proportion of these are sold for customers to use as food, and the remaining go to tea and herbal medicine makers in HCMC,” he added.
Some city-based restaurants said artichoke soup, a specialty of the city, usually attracts few customers due to its expensive price.
“Only well-off customers order this dish,” they said.
Meanwhile, Dao Van Toan, deputy head of the Plant Protection Agency, has a different concern.
“The reduction of artichoke crops in Da Lat will affect the source of material for more than 10 artichoke-product manufacturers in the city,” he said.