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Local apple species should bring profit to ethnic groups

Update: October, 03/2015 - 09:46
The growing acreage of apple fruits locally called tao meo, has rapidly increased in recent years, as more business is needed to boost the consumption of fruit in the northwest region. — Photo vietnamnet.vn
SON LA  (VNS) — The growing acreage of apple fruits locally called tao meo, has rapidly increased in recent years, as more business is needed to boost the consumption of fruit in the northwest region.

A truly Vietnamese specialty, tao meo with scientific name as Docynia indica, is a kind of apple that is grown wild in Viet Nam's northwest mountains.

Tao meo (tao means apple, and meo is a word for the Mong ethnic minority) are locally grown in northwest Viet Nam at an altitude of 1,000m and above, mainly in the districts of Bac Yen, Mai Son, Muong La, Thuan Chau of Son La Province, Tuan Giao of Dien Bien Province, Mu Cang Chai of Yen Bai Province and Sa Pa and Si Ma Cai of Lao Cai Province.

Previously, Mong ethnic minority people often picked fruit during their trips into the forest, which were easy to find during the leaf-falling season.

"The apple's taste is sweet and sour, but has a delicious smell," said Lu A Say, of Son La Province's Ta Xua Commune. "Now, tao meo is cheap, but there are traders who are coming to the mountainous area to purchase them."

Ta Xua Commune, located in a high mountain chain at a height of 1,800m, is one of most popular tao meo-growing areas in Bac Yen District. The fruit is small, but smells more delicious than fruits in other regions in northwest Viet Nam.

Cider-making process

In 1998, a 6,000-litre-per-year tao meo wine-processing factory was built in Bac Yen District. The factory was funded by Son La Province's Department of Science, Technology and Environment, Agricultural Machine Manufacture Institute and Bac Yen District's People's Committee.

Nguyen Thi Tuyet, director of Bac Son Ltd.Co., which managed the wine factory, said its nine products were granted high-quality certificates by the ministries of health, and agriculture-rural development.

Lu A Say said the factory had purchased tao meo from the region since 1998, but the fruit-growing acreage started to increase rapidly five years ago, leading to a surplus of fruit in the region.

"Tao meo becomes a fruit that helps local ethnic minority people eradicate hunger and alleviate poverty," he said.

Another villager in Lang Cheu Commune, Song A Mang said he earned VND80 million (US$3,500) from a 4ha-fruit forest his family took care of for one year.

"The income has been double or triple the income I receive from maize growing, and the work is more simple," he said. "I plan to keep expanding the fruit-growing acreage."

In the neighbouring province of Dien Bien, Mong ethnic minorities have grown fruit trees for five years.

Mua Dung Dua, a villager of Tuan Giao District's Toa Tinh Commune, said most families grew fruit trees, replacing other crops like rice and herbal trees.

Nong thon ngay nay (Countryside Today) newspaper reported that Son La Province has the largest fruit-acreage in the northwest region with more than 6,000ha. The province has an average output of four to six tonnes per ha.

In the next five years, the output of fruit is expected to increase rapidly because several newly-grown acreages are ready for harvest.

Vu Duc Thuan, chief of Son La Province's Forestry Department, said it had 2,500ha of natural tao meo acreage and 4,000ha of fruit tree-growing acreage maintained by ethnic minority people. The trees are mainly in the districts of Muong La, Bac Yen and Mai Son.

Thuan said the province had provided free seedlings to local people.

He said three district authorities had co-ordinated with the provincial forest department to develop fruit processing, but the yield had exceeded expectations.

Consumption remained a challenge, Thuan said.

He said the province called on enterprises to invest in fruit processing because the rapidly increasing fruit-growing acreage and available labour force in the region are great advantages.

A trader, Nguyen Van Phuong, said traders purchased 100 tonnes of fresh fruit a year. The unique wine-processing factory has consumed a large volume of fresh fruits, but a surplus still exists. — VNS

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