Phan Minh Tiến introduces products made from water coconut honey. — VNA/VNS Photo
CẦN GIỜ — A young engineer in Cần Giờ is turning palm trees into profit, utilising the natural gifts of his hometown to launch his start-up, Việt Nam Nipa Development Company Limited (VIETNIPA).
Phan Minh Tiến was born and raised in Cần Giờ, a suburban area of HCM City, that is famous for its nipa palm groves.
For generations, local people have been using nipa leaves to roof their houses, and the fragrant, sticky coconut rice is a famous rustic dish of the region.
Tiến said he had achieved his dream of entering university to escape being a farmer in his hometown.
He graduated from HCM City University of Technology with a degree in chemical engineering and has done many jobs in Kiên Giang and Cà Mau provinces.
However, the young man was interested in improving the economic value of the nipa palm tree – a tree that grew naturally in Cần Giờ and in the southern coastal region.
Tiến would make full use of his free time after work to research the characteristics of the nipa palm tree.
Tiến said, after reading many documents, he realised that the nipa palm tree was a gift that nature bestowed on the Cần Giờ's people.
Almost all parts of the nipa palm tree can be exploited, but this full potential has not yet been realised in Việt Nam.
"The stem of the nipa coconut tree is the most "quintessential" part of the tree, but we forget this because we think it has no value.
However, the people of the Philippines and Malaysia have produced a series of products from the stem of the nipa coconut tree such as wine and vinegar, serving both domestic and export markets.
With a desire to make full use of precious natural resources available in his homeland, in 2017 the young engineer decided to give up his high income in Cà Mau to return to Cần Giờ.
He decided to launch a start-up, focusing on the nipa palm tree. Tiến was supported and assisted by his family.
Although he studied a lot of documents, in reality, he faced many difficulties. The stems after being cut were sunburned, causing the wood to shrink and not secrete honey as the documents showed.
Undeterred, Tiến continued to study and discovered that to stimulate the stem to secrete honey, he had to know how to massage the stem of the tree.
A stem will secrete more than one litre of fresh coconut honey every day and can secrete honey continuously for about 30 days.
“Freshwater coconut honey has a cool, sweet taste mixed with the typical salty taste of the coast. It can be used as an energy drink as mineral salt is very good for health,” Tiến said.
Tiến and seven local households officially started their journey of exploiting fresh coconut honey over a total area of 3ha.
“Every day, we harvest nearly 1,000 litres of fresh coconut honey,” Tiến said.
“However, water coconut molasses is very easy to ferment. Therefore, after harvesting, fresh coconut honey is put into a pasteurisation filtration system, bottled in glass and refrigerated. This can extend the time of use up to 10 days.”
Tiến also researched how to concentrate the fresh coconut honey to process the products with higher value and longer shelf life.
Concentrated coconut honey can be stored at room temperature for one year. This is an important condition for it to be able to reach consumers in all parts of the country and for export.
Cần Giờ District has 900 hectares of natural nipa palm forest. It is estimated that the whole southwest region has over 9,000 hectares. This is a huge source of raw materials and is naturally renewable.
Tiến has received many prestigious awards and certificates, including Second Prize of the Rural Youth Innovation Project Contest 2019, jointly organised by the Central Youth Union in collaboration with the Centre for Business Research and Business Support (BSA); certification of Typical Rural Industrial Products of HCM City in 2019; certification of high-quality Vietnamese goods – integration standards.
In 2021, Ông Sáu's Water Coconut Honey was ranked as a 4-star OCOP (One Commune One Product) of Cần Giờ District. — VNS