Vietnam usually exports around 100,000 tons of fresh lychees worth more than $30 million each season; mostly to China but to Japan, Australia and the US too. But business is down this year as Vietnam keeps its borders shut.
"Because of the pandemic, we aren't seeing Chinese traders and we mostly sell to domestic traders so the price is very low," said Nguyen Van Thanh, adding that half his haul ends up overseas in a normal year.
Foreign buyers tend to come directly to the market -just a few hour’s drive from the Chinese border- during the fruit's short six-week season. But state media reported last week several hundred from China and Japan had been quarantined for 14 days. Despite authorities saying they would promote domestic consumption, prices have dropped to half of what they were last year.
Already a major coffee, rice and catfish exporter, Vietnam has in recent years turned its attention to fruit. Last year it exported $3.76 billion worth of fruit and vegetables.