A Masan High-Tech Materials executive visits a safe tea intensive farming model carried out using a loan from the economic restoration fund. — Photo courtesy of Masan
HCM CITY — Dang Xuan Kinh of Thai Nguyen Province has been growing tea for over 20 years.
The farmer, who lives in Hamlet 9, Tan Linh Commune, Dai Tu District, joined a co-operative in 2017 and started growing safe tea to VietGAP standards, and received funding from the Nui Phao Mining Company Limited’s economic recovery programme (VND50 million) to extend his tea farming area by 60 per cent.
He also participated in a study tour to an organic tea farm in La Bang Commune.
Kinh said, “Although my family has been growing tea for a long time, joining the VietGAP co-operative and visiting the organic tea farm broadened my knowledge about tea growing techniques and I now pursue production of safe organic tea.”
Now, during the peak season, his two-hectare tea farm can provide jobs for four to 10 people.
“I hope that NPMC will continue its support by connecting us with technical consultants and enterprises so that we can maintain our organic tea production for the health of my family and consumers and for more sustainable tea farming.”
Nguyen Dinh Chuong of Hamlet 7, Ha Thuong Commune, Dai Tu, said: “My family has a 0.4ha tea farm. By joining the VietGAP tea co-operative, we received support from NPMC in the form of technical training for safe tea production based on the VietGAP model, study tour to other farms such as Tan Cuong and Dong Hy, subsidies for testing soil and water samples and fresh tea, upgrading the facility and buying a steel tea roaster, and providing dry tea for the company employees to use.
“The prices for our tea have increased by 5-10 per cent compared to what we produced in the conventional way, and the average income my family earns is around VND5 million per person per month.”
Thai Nguyen is striving to produce safe, quality tea on 100 per cent of its tea growing area based on the VietGAP and organic models as part of its plan for “Enhancing added value and sustainable development for Thai Nguyen tea in 2017 – 2020.”
In order to improve the quality and value of its tea products, in recent years the province has been moving towards centralised production of tea that meets safety and organic standards under the VietGAP model and is safe for both producers and consumers.
To promote the Dai Tu tea brand and help locals improve their livelihoods from tea farming, since 2007 the NPMC has invited famous technical consultants to come and instruct locals in sustainable tea cultivation.
Kinh and Chuong’s households are among the beneficiaries of the company’s programme
Growing safe tea to VietGAP standards with the support of NPMC, a wholly-owned subsidiary of Masan High-Tech Materials (MHT), has helped farmers in Dai Tu District attain a new mindset with regard to producing tea in a safe, sustainable and environmentally friendly manner.
According to statistics from the Dai Tu Agricultural and Rural Development Office, the total area of VietGAP tea cultivation supported by Nui Phao is 91ha, or 21 per cent of the total tea growing area in the district. They are owned by nearly 400 farmers who are members of 14 co-operatives.
Dai Tu has the largest area under tea in the province, and second largest of any districts in the country (see table below).
Tea farm based on VietGap standards supported by MHT from 2013 to 2019
Although agriculture based on the VietGAP model continues to receive resources from the Government and dedicated agencies, VietGAP produce has somehow become less attractive to customers, even though they are increasingly demanding healthy food.
Therefore, instead of continuing to invest in expanding VietGAP tea cultivation area, Nui Phao has worked with State institutions, private enterprises, farmers, and scientists to achieve a joint commitment to an organic tea farming model in Hamlet 10 in Tan Linh Commune.
The participants include Thai Nguyen Agriculture and Forestry University, Tan Linh commune authority, Dai Tu Agriculture and Rural Development Office, Ha Thai Tea JSC., NTEA Tea JSC., Nui Phao Mining Company Limited, and 50 farmers from Hamlet 10.
All participants are committed to contributing resources, knowledge and techniques to convert 10 hectares of tea farms in Tan Linh Commune into organic tea farms. The company not only connects the parties but also holds consultation meetings and conducts field trips and study tours to successful cases of this model in Dong Hy and Phu Luong districts.
The project, which has been carried out for three years (2019-21), has not only established the largest organic tea farm in Thai Nguyen but also improved the environment and changed rural practices towards sustainability and safety for both producers and consumers.
The Thai Nguyen Agriculture and Forestry University manages and provides support for developing the organic tea farming model at a cost of VND2.1 billion (fertiliser, training and organic tea certification).
In 2019 Nui Phao co-ordinated with the others during the establishment stage for organising training and study tours and working with authorities for the establishment of the co-operative. In 2020 it has continued to extend support in the form of providing mesh covers, efficient irrigation systems, fertilisers, and other facilities.
It also works with the others to complete all the formalities related to producers’ right and interest, such as agreements between participants, commitments relating to producers’ interests, and commitments between producers and buyers so that producers feel secure about following this organic model.
Nguyen Quoc Truong, a farmer in Hamlet 10, said, “We find the organic tea production model safe for health and the products welcomed in the market, and this is a common trend now in agricultural production.
“Therefore, the 50 households of Hamlet 10, Tan Linh Commune, have agreed to sign a commitment to produce safe tea and gradually move away from the VietGAP and conventional models to the organic model.
“It is not easy to switch to producing organic tea. It needs patience and determination to follow the new practice. I hope we will continue to receive support from Nui Phao and the other technical consultants to successfully implement the organic tea model, which will help improve local people’s living conditions.” — VNS