Golden camellia flowers brighten the mountainous district of Quảng Ninh

November 26, 2022 - 08:02
Golden camellia tree's economic benefits are much higher than those of other crops.
Workers processing yellow camellia flowers at a facility. VNA/VNS Photo

HÀ NỘI — Growing wild in the forest of the mountainous district of Ba Chẽ, Quảng Ninh Province, golden camellia plants are providing local people with a stable livelihood, with selling prices of dried yellow camellia flowers ranging VNĐ13-15 million per kg (US$523.45-603.99).

In 2010, realising the value of golden camellia flowers, people in the area planted them in a concentrated area. With outstanding properties for health that were researched and evaluated by scientific organisations, yellow camellia flowers are even sought after by foreign traders.

“Life-changing” trees

Over the past 10 years, people in Ba Chẽ District have regularly picked yellow camellia leaves, buds, and flowers in natural forests to use for health or sell for high prices, ranging from VNĐ13 to VND15 million a kg of dried flowers, while fresh flowers are purchased at an average price of VNĐ600,000 per kg, fresh leaves are priced at VNĐ50,000 a kg, and dried leaves are VNĐ300,000-500,000 a kg.

Currently, the whole district has about 200 hectares planted with golden camellia trees. The growing areas are primarily concentrated in the communes of Đôn Đạc, Đạp Thanh, Thanh Lâm, Thanh Sơn, Nam Sơn and Lương Mông. Now, about 100 hectares have been harvested. The average yield of fresh yellow camellia flowers is 20 tonnes a year, and that of fresh yellow tea leaves is 65 tonnes a year. Therefore, the district’s revenue from the golden camellia plant reaches over VNĐ20 billion a year.

With the economic value of the golden camellia plant and the support from the new rural construction programme, all ethnic groups in the district have focused on growing this plant. After more than ten years of development, the golden camellia plant has brought stability to households participating in planting. If in 2015, the district's per capita income was VNĐ17.5 million, then by 2022, it reached VNĐ55 million, a gain of over VNĐ37 million per person per year.

Triệu Quý Bảo, a farmer in Bắc Cái Village, Đôn Đặc Commune, said that he is currently cultivating the golden camellia trees. At wholesale prices, each 15-20 cm tall plant costs around VNĐ20,000; the tree will bloom after one year.

In the past, his family specialised in growing cinnamon, cuninghamia, and acacia trees, but now they grow the golden camellia trees for higher economic efficiency, which are harvested every year. On average, a tree produces 1-2 kg of fresh flowers each year, equivalent to about VNĐ1 million. Taking care of the golden camellia tree is not too difficult; people should plant it under trees with a wide canopy, luminescent around the base of the tree, and fertilise it with organic fertilisers.

Triệu Kim Liên, from Lang Cổng Village, Đôn Đạc Commune, said that her family also planted nearly 600 golden camellia roots and has been harvesting them for three years.

The economic benefits are much higher than those of other crops. However, due to the small number of trees, the annual income is about VNĐ400 million, Liên said, adding that this year she will cut branches to plant more and hope that the price and output will be stable.

Golden camellia buds. — VNA/VNS Photo Thanh Vân

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Golden active ingredients

According to Associate Professor Dr. Đặng Thị Cẩm Hà, former Head of the Institute of Biotechnology at the Vietnam Academy of Science and Technology, the golden camellia tree is a very good plant, containing good active ingredients that are beneficial to health, depending on the quantity and usage of each person.

For about 8 years, Hà has been researching the golden camellia tree in Ba Chẽ District.

She said the yellow camellia trees are grown in the mountainous Ba Chẽ ethnic group on soil with few impurities that has not been heavily influenced by chemicals, so the products are chemical-free. For golden camellia flowers, just soaking the flowers in water at 80 degrees or more has released many beneficial active ingredients without having to use other complicated measures.

To determine the activities of this plant, Ba Chẽ District collaborated with the Vietnam Academy of Science and Technology in 2019 to send samples to the Netherlands' BioDetection Systems (BDS) for analysis and evaluation of the flowers' active ingredients. The findings revealed that golden camellia flowers possessed anti-cancer, anti-aging, anti-hormonal, and anti-metabolic properties.

Currently, to ensure the purchase and consumption of products by people growing golden camellia trees, there are two purchasing and processing facilities in the area. The golden flowers are collected once a year, around December to February of the lunar calendar, according to Hoàng Thị Uy, Director of the Ba Chẽ Golden Flower Tree Medicinal Cooperative.

Previously, there was only one purchasing facility in the district, in Đạp Thanh Commune, so people with a small number of flowers were often afraid to sell due to the long distance, resulting in flowers blooming too soon and losing their economic value. Therefore, cooperatives were established to support favourable product consumption, bringing the highest economic value.

Uy also said that collecting yellow camellia flowers requires great care because the flowers bloom quickly, requiring people to visit and pick the flowers many times when they show signs of blooming to avoid being caught, resulting in a low economic value.

Yellow flowers are an OCOP product of Quảng Ninh Province, according to Khiếu Anh Tú, vice chairman of the Ba Chẽ District People's Committee. Currently, the locality is carrying out procedures for the province to appraise and report to the Central Government to develop the golden camellia flower into a national brand.

The products, after being processed into finished products, are mainly sold as OCOP products and have not been widely developed for the consumption market. The district hopes that by evaluating this product as a 5-star national OCOP, it will raise awareness of the value and brand of Ba Chẽ's yellow flower tea. It is expected that by 2025, about 400 hectares of yellow flower tea will be developed in the whole district. VNS