Every year, ten days before Tet, hundreds of farmers from Huong Hoa District in Quang Tri Province, who specialize in growing Siamese bananas, bring their produce to the Tan Long banana market for sale.

On special occasions like Tet, Vietnamese people carry out ancestor worship rituals by burning incense and making offerings of food and fruit on the family altar.

Bananas are a popular choice for these offerings in northern and central Vietnam, according to the Vietnam News Agency.

Income for a bountiful Tet

Considered the largest market of its kind in central Vietnam, the Tan Long banana market buzzed with activity as hundreds of people from across Huong Hoa District gathered early Tuesday morning to sell Siamese bananas – a favorite local offering for ancestor worship before Tet. 

With wooden bars fixed to the front and back of their motorcycles, each of these sellers can carry up to ten bushels of bananas.

On the same day, Ho Van Khe, a resident of Thanh Commune, carried four bushels of bananas to the market to sell for the Tet holiday.

Unsatisfied with a previous offer of only VND200,000 ($8.19) for his entire bunch of bananas, Khe took it upon himself to pedal up and down the market in search of a better deal. 

Comparatively, just one day prior, Khe had been able to sell four bunches of bananas for VND800,000-900,000 ($33-37) each.

A seller transports bushels of bananas on a motorcycle at the Tan Long banana market in Huong Hoa District, Quang Tri Province, central Vietnam, January 30, 2024. Photo: Hoang Tao / Tuoi Tre

Khe, who farms Siamese bananas on a 0.5-hectare plot of land, shared that he plans to continue selling bananas until the day before Lunar New Year’s Eve, which falls on February 9 this year.

“Last year, I earned VND15 million ($614) from selling my Tet banana harvest,” Khe said.

“I used the money to buy clothes for my wife and two kids, as well as some new household appliances.

“Hopefully, this year’s harvest will also bring plenty of money.”

The Siamese bananas grown in Huong Hoa District are usually sold for just VND3,000 ($0.12) per kilogram outside of holidays, mainly for export to Thailand and China.

As such, the days leading up to Tet are exponentially more profitable for farmers like Khe thanks to bananas being sold by the bushel, rather than by the kilogram.

Nguyen Thi Thom, a resident of Tan Long Commune, sources bananas from individual sellers like Khe at the market and wholesales them to traders in neighboring Thua Thien-Hue Province.

Thom also takes bananas that are in particularly good condition and packages them for transport to faraway locations where they bring in higher prices.

According to Thom, banana prices were relatively low in the days leading up to this year’s Tet, though there is still hope for increased demand.

The Tan Long banana market, located in Huong Hoa District, Quang Tri Province, is considered the largest of its kind in central Vietnam. Video recorded on January 30, 2024. Video: Hoang Tao / Tuoi Tre

Vo Van Cuong, chairman of the People’s Committee of Tan Long Commune, explained that before the 25th day of the final lunar month, people either rarely purchase bananas or buy standard quality bananas for lunar year-end offerings, resulting in relatively low selling prices.

“After [the 25th day of the final lunar month], people look to buy banana bushels worthy of the first ancestor offerings of the Lunar New Year, so the price naturally rises,” said Cuong.

A broad market in central Vietnam

Cuong explained that Huong Hoa District’s Tan Long Commune and Lia Area are naturally blessed with a suitable climate and soil for producing high-quality bananas.

These bananas are known for their large size, beautiful peel, and popularity in the market.

A bird’s-eye view of the Tan Long banana market in Huong Hoa District, Quang Tri Province, central Vietnam, January 30, 2024. Photo: Hoang Tao / Tuoi Tre

“In recent years, the Siamese bananas grown in this area have been favored by traders from Da Nang City to Nghe An Province, who come to buy them in person,” Cuong said.

Huong Hoa District is home to about 4,000 hectares of Siamese banana farms, which were granted a collective trademark certificate by the Intellectual Property Office of Vietnam in 2018.

Official market coming soon

Currently, the Tan Long banana market congregates at the intersection of National Highway 9 and Provincial Road 586, posing a threat to this area’s traffic safety.

After many years of waiting, authorities in Huong Hoa District approved an investment of VND11 billion ($450,357) in December 2023 to construct an official area for the Tan Long Banana Market.

Projected to be finished by 2026, the new Tan Long market will be situated approximately 300 meters from the old location and feature carefully planned routes to facilitate easier navigation for market-goers.