Rocky highlands expedition yields tons of custard apples
VietReader 14-09-2020, 22:50
Rocky highlands expedition yields tons of custard apples



The harvest season for custard apples has been on for a month in
Chi Lang Distric
t, which means residents have been going up and down the mountains to pluck and collect the fruit.
Some households who own thousands of custard apple trees
have to
hire
extra hands
to help them collect the fruits.



Standing on a rock, 46-year-old Nong Can Hanh
looks for ripened fruits to pluck.
Hanh is one of many people who work
as
a custard apple picker for hire
in the border province. He has been doing this
for six years.






Over
the last 24 days, we have traveled about 12 km to pick and
take back
the custard apples to the owner. Since the custard apple trees here were planted on the mountains, we have to know how to climb them.



“It
gets
most challenging on rainy days because the roads are slippery and the trees are wet. We can fall down the mountains if we are not careful,” Hanh said.





Carrying a basket, 62-year-old Hoang Van Chuc walks around the garden to pick the fruits and monitor the hired workers. Chuc own
s about
2000 custard apple trees planted on three different mountain ranges.
This season, he has hired
seven people to collect the fruits from morning to afternoon.



“I
pay
VND300000
($13) per day
for each worker and cover their meal expenses throughout the harvest season,” Chuc said.





He said
p
lucking
the custard apples needs patien
ce
and care.
“You have to pick the ripen
ed
one
s
, and if you want to keep
them
in shape, you have to handle them with care.”



The
harvesting work gets done
from 5-10 a.m. and 1-4 p.m.





On the mountain, pickers like Chuc and Hanh have to carry
gadgets to keep mosquitoes away.





When the
baskets are full of the fruits,
the workers carr
y
them to the owner’s house. On average, a person can collect and carry 250 kg of custard apples every day.



“This has been my job for five years but it is just a seasonal job. I get around VND10 million ($432) each harvest season,”
said
Nong Van Tau, a hired
hand
.





Two workers carry the custard apple
s
down the mountain to the owner’s house.





From higher up in the mountains, a pulley system is used to deliver
the fruits in time for traders
to collect them.





A worker
manages the pulley to
deliver
harvested custard apples
down the mountain.





The baskets of fresh custard apples are t
aken to the owners’ places after the pulley system delivers them to the bottom of the mountain.



The cust
ard apples from the
se
mountains have
aromatic pulp with
a strong sweet taste
, locals say.





Both owner
s
and workers
sort the harvested fruits according to certain quality and size criteria that fetch different prices.





The baskets of custard apples are marked and labeled with their weight before being transferred to merchants.



Most of the custard apples harvested in this district are sold locally.
Last year, 25 percent
was
exported to China. This year, many people
sold
the fruit online, locals said.



The Department of Agriculture and Rural Development of Chi Lang District said that the custard apple planting area that met
national cultivation
standard
s
was nearly 400 hectares, double
that of
last year.



“This year, the district expect
s to harvest
6000 tons of
the
fruit,
and
the price is stable
,
from VND40000 to VND90000 ($4) per
kilo
,

said
Luong Thanh Chung,
h
ead of
the district’s agriculture division.

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