Updated: June 17, 2021 10:33 AM GMT
Mary Nguyen Thi Lan sells plums distributed by Father Joseph Nguyen Tien Lien at her house in Yen Bai. (Photo: UCA News)
Catholics in Vietnam’s northern provinces are supporting farmers by working together to stimulate public consumption of fruits that are trapped by the Covid-19 lockdown.
Since late May, farmers in Son La province, one of the country’s key plum-growing areas, have been unable to sell their produce due to social distancing and quarantine regulations to contain the coronavirus outbreak.
Due to such measures, few traders come to purchase their produce. In the past many traders from other parts of the country bought and shipped plums to sell across the country and abroad.
Father Joseph Nguyen Tien Lien, who serves Mai Yen Parish in the province, said he launched an initiative on May 30 to use social media to call on people in other places to help consume local farmers’ plums.
“Many Catholic associations, individuals and followers of other faiths have supported us and bought 200 tonnes of plums so far. Thanks be to God,” Father Lien said, adding that 10-30 tonnes per day are transported to Hanoi, Ho Chi Minh City and Nam Dinh, Phu Tho, Thai Binh, Yen Bai provinces and the Central Highlands.
The priest said he and a group of volunteers drive to buy plums for 3,000-5,000 dong (13-22 US cents) per kilogram from plantations and gardens before shipping them to other places to meet advance orders.
We want to cherish their agricultural products as they are the fruits of their sweat and efforts
“We volunteer to help sell the produce of local farmers and we earn no profit,” he said, adding that customers can buy plums for 10,000 dong per kilogram.
He said this year local farmers reaped a bumper crop but prices hit rock bottom, plummeting to 2,000-5,000 dong per kilogram from 10,000-20,000 dong last year.
He said farmers will face starvation as plums are their main source of income. The province produces thousands of tonnes of plums each year.
“We try our best to collect plums until the harvest ends at the end of this month as plums are ripe and will rot when the rainy season comes,” Father Lien said.
The priest said they try to assist farmers who have worked hard and could now lose their major investments.
“We want to cherish their agricultural products as they are the fruits of their sweat and efforts,” he said.
Mary Nguyen Thi Lan, head of the Good Mothers Association based in Yen Bai Parish, said members have supported farmers in Son La province by purchasing 5 tonnes of plums from Father Lien.
Lan, 60, said each member buys tens of kilograms of plums to offer their relatives and friends. Plums are consumed fresh, preserved and made into soft drinks.
The mother of three said she buys the plums and teaches her children how to appreciate the farmers’ hard work
“We are delighted to work with Father Lien to assist poor farmers affected by the health measures against the coronavirus outbreak,” she said.
Mary Nguyen Thu Hang, an association member, said she gets 100 kilograms of plums each time to offer her relatives in Hanoi and southern provinces.
The mother of three said she buys the plums and teaches her children how to appreciate the farmers’ hard work.
Father Lien, who has worked in the area since 2017, said he serves almost 3,000 Catholics from the Hmong, Kinh, Thai and Xinh Mun ethnic communities in Mai Son, Phu Yen and Bac Yen districts. These Catholic communities have not been recognized by the local authorities.