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At 3 a.m., farmers in Luc Ngan, just north of Hanoi, pick lychees from their gardens, bunching them in big bundles. Lychees are picked early to avoid them withering in the sun.
Hue, the owner of a garden with 200 lychee trees, works in the small hours to pick up the most delicious lychees. Like her, many other growers also harvest lychee from around 3 a.m. so that traders can come to buy in early morning.
At 7 a.m., Hung, a garden owner in Luc Ngan District, carries a batch of lychees to a local market where he sells at VND30,000 ($1.3) a kilo, possibly earning him VND100 million ($4,300) for this harvest season.
Farmers carrying batches of lychee have to cross death-defying Tong Lenh pontoon bridge over the Luc Nam River in Truong Giang Commune. The motorbike train carrying harvested lychees is several kilometers long, causing heavy traffic jams.
Lychee harvest season in Bac Giang usually starts from mid-May and ends at the end of July. Large baskets of lychees weighing 200-250 kg are transported by motorbike to large collection points in Kim and Chu towns for trade.
Right at the end of the pontoon bridge, traders stand waiting. If a deal is successful, farmers sell immediately and return home to fetch another shipment.
Traders study the lychee bunches carefully to spot bad fruit. A lychee basket costs between VND12,000-27,000 a kg.
Dozens of tons of lychees are stored inside a warehouse in Luc Ngan.
Luc Ngan District has 15,290 ha of lychee orchards, and is likely to produce 85,000 tons this year. Of this, 34,000 tons are fresh fruit for the domestic market, 36,000 for export and 15,000 for processing.
Tuan, a Luc Ngan local, drinks a little water while taking a break. He has been collecting and selecting lychees for traders for over 10 years.
Traders will check the quality of lychees one final time before they are packed into boxes. Damaged lychees would be removed.
Lychees are packed carefully before shipping. This lychee batch is expected to end up in China.
According to the Ministry of Agriculture and Rural Development, Vietnamese lychees are mainly exported to China, but smaller quantities also go to countries in the Middle East and the EU, Australia, Canada, Japan, Russia, Singapore, South Korea, Thailand and the U.S.
Prime Minister Nguyen Xuan Phuc earlier this month granted permission for 307 Chinese traders to enter Vietnam to buy lychees in Bac Giang, following quarantine of 14 days as a Covid-19 preventive measure.
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License number: 71/GP-CBC, Ministry of Information and Communications, September 22, 2021
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