|A large cinnamon tree is chopped down in protected forest under the management of Hướng Hiệp Commune People's Committee in Dakrông District in the central province of Quảng Trị. — Photo kinhtedothi.vn
QUẢNG TRỊ — Unemployed because of the coronavirus, people in the central province of Quảng Trị are heading to the forest to harvest cinnamon bark illegally. In some cases, they reportedly chopped down large cinnamon trees.
The illegal cinnamon exploitation was first detected in the communes of Đakrông District last month, said Trần Đại Đức, head of the district’s Forest Protection Division.
“Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, many people became unemployed. Seeing the demand for cinnamon bark increasing, people, especially those living near the forest, entered it to collect cinnamon bark,” Đức said.
To get the bark, they have even chopped down cinnamon trees. Most of them have a trunk with a diameter of 20-30 cm.
The forest rangers and other agencies have detected at least four cases relating to illegal cinnamon bark trade and transport, seizing more than two tonnes of cinnamon bark last month, he said.
The forest rangers also caught six people red-handed chopping down trees in the forest in A Ngo Commune.
A resident told Người lao động (The Labourers) newspaper that wholesalers paid VNĐ 5,000 for a kilogram of fresh cinnamon bark. The price of dried bark is higher.
A person can collect 40-50 kg of fresh cinnamon bark if they spent a day in the forest.
Forest rangers have told residents to stop illegal cinnamon exploitation and trade, said Đức.
Local authorities have also tightening patrols and punishments for illegal cinnamon trade and transport.
According to Đakrong District’s Steering Committee for Forest Protection and Sustainable Forestry Development, illegal cinnamon exploitation has been seen in communes in the district including Hướng Nghiệp, A Ngo, Tà Long, Tà Rụt, A Bung and A Vao.
Nguyễn Hồng Phương, vice director of Quảng Trị Province’s Agriculture and Rural Development Department, said that local authorities and forest managers had taken measures to better protect the cinnamon forest from illegal exploitation.
The authorised agencies have also tightened inspection of the trade of cinnamon bark at local enterprises and establishments.
“As a long-term solution, the province will introduce farming/production models to increase incomes and improve living conditions for people, especially those who live near the forest,” she said.
"Once people had a stable livelihood, they can help ensure sustainable and effective forest protection."
Thanks to firm roots, cinnamon trees grow well in infertile soil and steep hills. Forest cinnamon starts flowering after eight to ten years.
Normally, low cinnamon forests can be harvested when the trees are three-five years old. However, for high-quality products, cinnamon trees must be over 15 years old.
All parts of the cinnamon tree such as the bark, leaves, flowers, wood, and roots can be used. People mainly harvest cinnamon bark, cinnamon branches or leaves to dry or store as essential oils.
Việt Nam's cinnamon has long been known for its quality and flavour because it is rich in essential oil. The bark has a cinnamic acid content of about 75 per cent, while its leaf has a content of more than 50 per cent.
Both bark and leaf are used to produce essential oil for food and pharmaceutical industries. About 0.8 per cent of cinnamon's essential oil are contained in its leaf and 2.2 per cent in its bark. — VNS