Farmer in Cửu Long Delta succeeds in exporting lemongrass

February 20, 2024 - 10:45
This is a promising new turning point for a very familiar plant often grown in the backyards of rural households in the Mekong Delta region.
Nguyễn Hoài An (left) is instructing his worker to clean lemongrass. Photo

VĨNH LONG ­– A young Cửu Long (Mekong) Delta farmer has gained success in the last few years growing Vietnamese lemongrass plants and bringing his products to markets abroad.

This is a promising new turning point for a very familiar plant often grown in the backyards of rural households in the Mekong Delta region.

Nguyễn Hoài An, born in 1993, lives in Thiện Mỹ Commune, Trà Ôn District of southern Vĩnh Long Province.

Since he was a student, Hoài An had the dream of changing his life, but “it must be changing life in my own homeland".

“After graduating from university, I went to work in Japan. I hoped to learn good things to apply back home,” An told

“Whenever I had time, I often wandered from the traditional markets to big supermarkets,” he recalled.

“I found that agricultural products imported in Japan were sold at very high prices, especially spices, including lemongrass. I wondered why our country's delicious lemongrass plants were rarely present in this market,” he said.

He returned to Việt Nam with this question on his mind.

“In my hometown, lemongrass is very common, it seems like every house has a few lemongrass bushes for daily use. So I decided to start up with the spice plant,” he said.

To have an abundant source of lemongrass to ensure supply, he had to create a raw material area.

In 2019, An went to Bình Tân District to rent more than 20ha of land to grow lemongrass.

Lemongrass has a characteristic strong aroma, is easy to grow and can be harvested after 4 months, according to An.

However, the journey of finding a market for lemongrass was initially more difficult than he imagined.

He went to every market with the hope of finding buyers for his lemongrass plants.

At first, everyone said that this business was simply "throwing money out the window". His family and friends did not believe that a plant grown "out in the bush" could have a brand and "go far".

“I went to small markets asking wholesalers to buy lemongrass. Eventually I made contacts among fruit and vegetable wholesalers in major markets, so my business gradually stabilised,” An said.

Fortunately, his friends introduced him to food processing businesses exporting lemongrass.

For lemongrass to be exported, it must meet extremely strict criteria regarding size, hygiene and packaging, he said.

After constant efforts and firm belief in his success, An’s facility now supplies on average 1.5-2 tonnes of the spice to the domestic market every day, and associates with a number of companies for export to foreign markets such as Japan, Malaysia and Europe.

“For the domestic market, we can currently meet the demand of markets in the Cửu Long Delta region. For exporting, I just started with small orders. Only when my growing area is stable will I dare to accept large orders,” he said.

The consumption of lemongrass was progressing very well, however, Hoài An still regretted that this plant is only harvested for its stems and sold, leaving large amounts of lemongrass leaves to be discarded.

He boldly researched the process to produce lemongrass essential oil.

Because the technique of refining lemongrass oil is quite complicated, he failed many times and his initial investment of VNĐ300 million (US$12,000) was about to run out.

But with strong determination, he kept working and learning from experience, An’s lemongrass essential oil finally appeared on the market and was well received by many consumers.

After the COVID-19 pandemic, especially from the beginning of 2023 until now, many workers looking for employment have been unable to find a position. But thanks to the project of growing lemongrass for export in large quantities, An has helped nearly 100 local workers earn better income with jobs such as planting, caring for, harvesting and preliminary processing of lemongrass plants.

Nguyễn Ngọc Xuân, a resident in Tân Thành Commune, said that she used to be a freelance worker and had applied for jobs everywhere many times, but could not get work because she was old and unskilled.

“Fortunately, when I applied to work for the lemongrass farm, An recruited me,” Xuân said.

“My job is to chop and clean the plants. I just work half a day every day, and earn VNĐ120,000 ($4.9) per shift,” Xuân said.

“And I still have time to do chores and raise poultry at home,” she said.

A stable job helps Xuân have an additional source of income to cover daily meals.

Similarly, Trần Ngọc Mai in Tân Thành Commune said that in the past she also struggled to find a job.

Luckily, she was introduced by a friend to work at An’s facility.

“My job is to select and bundle lemongrass, and I earn more than VNĐ100,000 ($4) a day,” Mai said.

“We all like An because of his kindness. Not only employing us, he always creates the best conditions for workers,” she said.

In the coming time, An plans to build a stable growing area and improve his workers' skills to meet the strict needs of export markets. VNS