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Tea sector looks to boost quality, profits

Update: January, 14/2012 - 09:22


Farmers collect tea leaves in northern Thai Nguyen Province's Tan Cuong District. Tea producers plan to raise standards to win international accreditation. — VNS Photo Truong Vi
HA NOI — Tea producers can boost profits and raise standards by acquiring international accreditation such as UTZ or Rain Forest Alliance (RFA), industry experts said.

Nguyen Thi Nhai, deputy head of the Tan Huong tea co-operative in Phuc Xuan Commune in northern Thai Nguyen City, said the tea produced by her co-operative now sold for between 5-10 per cent more than the market price after they were granted UTZ accreditation.

UTZ certification requires farmers to cut down on the use of fertilisers and pesticides.

"The amount of pesticide used was reduced. That improved the tea's quality. It is now darker and clearer and has a more pleasant aroma," Nhai said.

Le Hong Van, from Solidaridad, a Dutch non-governmental development agency which promotes fair trade, said that to meet UTZ standards, farmers had to strictly follow its principles to protect the environment and reduce costs.

After applying the new method of cultivation, the tea trees grew stronger and were more productive, while the price of the tea also increased, Van added.


MARD, Unilever co-operate to promote sustainable tea development

HA NOI — The Ministry of Agriculture and Rural Development and Unilever Viet Nam on Thursday signed an official memorandum of understanding to promote sustainable tea development in the country.

The project aims to help Viet Nam export more black tea to Unilever by improving quality and overall competitiveness, said JV Raman, chairman of Unilever Viet Nam.

"Unilever is looking to export 25,000-30,000 tonnes RFA certified tea by 2015," said Raman, adding that the project would provide jobs for 500,000 farmers. — VNS

Bui Thu Huong, head of the External Relations Department at Unilever, said her company was happy to pay more than the market price for tea that had been granted international certification.

Meanwhile, RFA accreditation has been awarded to farmers in northern Phu Tho Province's Thanh Ba District and northern Tuyen Quang Province's My Lam tourism area.

Nguyen Luong Duyen, deputy director of Phu Ben Tea Company, which buys tea from the two areas, said growers began applying the RFA cultivation model in 2010.

The average price of the company's tea exported overseas last year was US$2 per kilogramme, much higher than the market price of $1.5 per kilogram.

Because of the greater profit earned, the company was able to pay a higher price to local growers, Duyen said.

According to the Viet Nam Tea Association, Viet Nam has 132,000ha of tea plantations that produce 185,000 tonnes of dried tea annually. The industry employs 400,000 farming households – 3 million workers in 35 provinces.

The total amount of tea exported in 2011 was estimated at 131,000 tonnes, worth $198 million, a decrease of 4.3 per cent in amount and 0.8 per cent in value against the previous year.

However, most Vietnamese tea is considered to be of only average quality. Despite that, Viet Nam is the world's fifth biggest tea exporter.

Doan Anh Tuan, chairman of the Viet Nam Tea Association, said the industry planned to launch a campaign entitled "Responsible production for safe tea products," to boost quality.

"To raise the value of Vietnamese tea, in addition to boosting trade promotion and branding, we need to change the conventional way we produce tea."

Tuan also said it was important to raise farmers' awareness about sustainable and safe production.

To achieve that goal, distributors need to provide farmers with technical support, he said. — VNS

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