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    Wake up and smell the cinnamon

    Thanh An

    YEN BAI, Vietnam (Viet Nam News/ANN) – Cinnamon smells like prosperity to some Vietnamese farmers.

    The spice has been long seen by farmers of Phong Du Thuong Commune in the northern province of Yen Bai as a path to escaping poverty.

    In recent years, demand for cinnamon has become greater than ever and has helped many households in the province’s Van Yen District get a better life.

    Bearing that in mind, the province has developed an organic cinnamon platform, focussing on building an agricultural sustainable chain from this valuable spice.

    EXPORT ORGANIC CINNAMON

    To see how cinnamon has helped develop Yen Bai’s agriculture and enriched farmers, Viet Nam News travelled to the fourth factory of Visimex Vietnam Joint Stock Company, which was opened two years ago in Van Yen.

    As a reputed supplier of finished spices and agricultural products in Vietnam and abroad, the company’s key products are pepper, cashew nut, cinnamon and star anise.

    A farmer harvests cinnamon. PHOTOS: Viet Nam News/ANN
    Female workers pack cinnamon at a store

    Head of the company’s Quality Supervision Department Nguyen Thanh Lam said the company always made every effort to provide clean and safe agricultural products to clients.

    “Five years ago, our main markets were China, India and Bangladesh. Later, we realised European and American markets have big demands for cinnamon products, and they pay higher, so we decided to switch to business partners in this area. To meet the demands of European Union (EU) partners, the product must be made under an organic process and be controlled and given certification by a third party.

    “In 2018, we built an organic planting area in Van Yen District. To safeguard the area, we co-operated with Regional BioTrade Project officials to train local farmers not to use chemicals, apply hand-crafted cultivation, collect products with special-purpose vehicles and use bar codes to show their origins. The use of preservatives is forbidden in the company’s producing process.”

    Heading to the packaging store, seven female workers were standing around a table stacked high with cinnamon, selecting the best ones to put into package.

    Nguyen Thanh Mai, a worker, said all labourers must try their best in packing their assigned quota of 10kg boxes of cinnamon, with a maximum quantity of 15 boxes per day.

    “After we finish picking up the best cinnamon and are done packaging it, a supervisor will check again if our work is qualified. If any pack of cinnamon is not good enough, the worker must do another one. The rules are strict here.”

    Nguyen Thanh Mai said each worker has a quota to finish each day.

    “For each cinnamon tree trunk I peel, I sell for VND300-500,000, depending on the quality and quantity of the product,” he continued.

    His house has a total area of nine hectares of cinnamon, which he harvests twice a year, once in March and again in August.

    His organic cinnamon planting must also follow clean procedure, without chemical fertiliser, herbicide or any chemical substances.

    Each day, he takes careful notes on each step of his working process to submit to officials of Regional BioTrade SECO and Extending Commercial Initiative to protect Biodiversity and Ethical Values in the Herbs Field in Vietnam (Biotrade EU) to ensure the products can be certified as quality.

    SUSTAINABLE DEVELOPMENT

    BioTrade SECO official Nguyen Dieu Chi told Viet Nam News the project established an organic cinnamon planting chain at Phong Du Thuong Commune.

    “With that in mind, we have been successful in building a chain between farmers and entrepreneurs, aiming to have a higher qualified product for EU export target. This platform guarantees forest, bio-diversity and natural resources development purposes,” she said.

    According to Head of the commune’s People’s Committee Lo Van Manh, cinnamon has long been a precious tree, used by locals to treat many diseases.

    To meet growing demand, farmers have started to plant the tree, expanding the area to 2,000ha from 300ha, with the participation of 1,000 households, taking up 94 per cent of the commune’s population.

    “Since 2018, the local authority has co-ordinated with several businesses to encourage farmers to switch from natural cultivation to planting organic cinnamon for export. The tree not only helps us to eradicate poverty but also re-greens the land and protects the environment,” Manh said.

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