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Hunt for seeds ruins forests

Update: July, 09/2014 - 09:03
The uoi trees.

QUANG NAM (VNS0 — Like a plague, hunters are swarming local forests. The devastation left in their wake isn't from a search for gold, or for diamonds.

It's all because of a nut.

The price of uoi tree (or malva nut tree) seeds has spiked recently, and people have flocked to the central provinces of Quang Nam, where the trees are plentiful.

Once harvested, uoi tree seeds are used in traditional Chinese medicine to ease gastrointestinal disorders and soothe soar throats.

Favourable weather conditions have led to particularly fruitful harvests this year, according to Phan Tuan, head of the provincial Forest Management Department. As the market price of uoi seeds rose, people began rushing to the protected mountain forests of Nam Tra My, Bac Tra My, Nam Giang and Phuoc Son districts.

At present, a kg of uoi seeds is worth between VND 250,000-300,000 (US$11.7-14), an increase of VND50,000 or $2.3 over crops in recent years.

The uoi seeds.— Photo danviet

People can collect tens of kilograms of seeds from individual uoi trees, which are native to Southeast Asia.

But what has been good for foragers, has been havoc for the region's forests. Many decades-old trees were cut down, Nguyen Thanh Tam, Nam Tra My district's police chief, told VnExpress online.

There's been an even higher price for this high-value natural medicine. Tam said the illegal logging of uoi trees has caused injuries and even deaths as people are crushed under falling trunks.

Provincial authorities have issued an urgent order for local forest protection agencies, forest management boards and police to co-ordinate a crackdown on illegal logging of uoi trees. Local leaders are also calling for more patrols and checkpoints to prevent the transportation and trade of uoi seeds.

Last month, local authorities handled 72 cases of illegal logging and transport of uoi seeds, seizing more than 7.7 tonnes of seeds. — VNS

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