|People are harvesting tea leaves at Tam Chau Tea Farm in Lam Dong Province's Bao Lam District. The province is going through an oversupply of tea as importers have set up technical barriers to protect their local-made tea products against Viet Nam's. — VNA/VNS Photo Ly Kha
HCM CITY (VNS) — Lam Dong Province, the country's largest tea cultivation area, has an oversupply of tea as exports have declined.
As of mid-October, tea companies in Lam Dong had stored nearly 5,000 tonnes of unsold tea, including 2,590 tonnes of black tea, 1,660 tonnes of green tea and 688 tonnes of OoLong tea, according to the province.
Black and green tea is mostly exported to Pakistan and Afghanistan, according to Nguyen Van Son, deputy director of the province's Department of Agriculture and Rural Development.
Son spoke at a meeting held on Tuesday in Lam Dong.
Foreign importers are still buying tea from Lam Dong, but payments have been slow.
OoLong, a kind of high-quality tea, is mostly exported to Taiwan.
However, Taiwan has recently set up technical barriers, including reducing the maximum ermissible levels for fipronil, a pesticide, in tea to 0.002ppm (parts per millions). This was done to limit tea exports from Viet Nam to protect Taiwan's tea production, according to Son.
Export decline was due to tea growers and processors, he said.
Tea companies cannot manage the quality of tea materials, especially the residue of pesticides in tea, he said, adding that many tea growers used pesticides improperly.
Since Taiwan reduced the maximum permissible levels for fipronil in tea to 0.002ppm in July, the province's nine tea companies have temporarily stopped operating and many tea companies have cut back their production because of export decline.
Tea companies now buy fresh tea at a price of 5-10 per cent lower than the same period last year.
OoLong tea, for instance, is purchased at VND20,000 (90 US cents) a kilo, down VND400 (2 cents).
Pham Duc Nguyen, director of Phuong Nam Enterprise, said the management of pesticide use still had limitations.
Tea companies did not have facilities to do quick tests of tea quality when they bought tea from farmers, he said.
Doan Trong Phuong, deputy chairman of the Viet Nam Tea Association, said: "Tea companies should cooperate with farmers to set up tea material areas and systems to trace tea origin. If tea from a farmer is found having pesticide residue exceeding safety standards, the farmer will not be allowed to participate."
Pham S, vice chairman of the provincial People's Committee, said to solve current problems agencies should develop measures to raise awareness of farmers in applying high technology and safe standards in tea production.
Farmers should not use any chemicals that contain fipronil, he said.
Agencies should find markets in Europe as well as the America for OoLong tea, he said.
The province would organise two trade promotion delegations to Europe by the end of this year to promote tea exports, he said.
The Tay Nguyen (Central Highlands) has nearly 24,000ha of tea with annual output of 230,000 tonnes, accounting for about 30 per cent of the country's tea cultivation area. — VNS