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02/01/2019 - 07:53

VietGAP bitter melon tea made in Hue

From the local bitter melon variety which produces nearly a hundred tons per crop, the Thuy Duong agriculture cooperative (Thuy Duong town, Thua Thien Hue) has invested machines and built factories to produce bitter melon tea planted under VietGap standard.

Abundant fresh material

In 2007, Thuy Duong agricultural cooperative started to process bitter melon tea from the fresh fruit sources purchased right at the gardens where the orchards were planted under the VietGAP standard.

The bitter melons are planted with safe techniques

The advantages of this production model are that the planting area and the bitter melon production in locality in each harvest are quite large. According to the households planting bitter melons in Thuy Duong, in the harvest, each acre of land yields from 5 to 6 quintals on average. They are sold to traders right at the gardens or to retail in the market.

In addition to ensuring the output for farmers to serve the bitter melon tea production, the cooperative entered into a contract with Big C Hue supermarket, bringing the fresh bitter melon products of local people into the supermarket. Thank to these 2 ways of ensuring the output, the number of bitter melons consumed by local people in the main harvest time is around 1 ton per day, and the price is 20% - 30% higher than those sold in the market.

At present, Thuy Duong ward has over 40 households planting bitter melons with the total area of over 10 hectares. There are 2 main planting areas including the area along Loi Nong river and the hill area. The smallest area that the households plant bitter melons is around 250 m2, and the largest area that the households plant them is around 0.5 hectare. The bitter melons are often planted from the end of November and reaped at the time of Lunar New Year. In some other areas, the bitter melons are planted in March and the harvest time can last until June.

Accompanying bitter melon growers, the cooperative has guided the process and techniques of planting, caring and harvesting for farmers. In 2017, the model of growing bitter melons under VietGAP direction was applied and granted pilot certificate for 1.3 hectares. The cooperative has made contracts with cooperative members, in which the unit would be in charge of purchasing and consuming the products. In order to limit the effect of insects, instead of directly spaying insecticides to the fruits like what had been done before, the cooperative has bought and provided the farmers with fruit wrapping bags. Besides the households producing fruits under VietGAP direction, many other households realized the efficiency of the fruit wrapping bags so that they also ordered to use with 50% discount supported by the cooperative.

Diversifying products from the bitter melons

Mr. Le Chi Hiep, Deputy Director on business of Thuy Duong agricultural cooperative said, from the abundant bitter melon source in the locality, through learning about the market and consumer’s need, in 2017, the unit invested over 300 million VND to equip machines and factories to produce bitter melon tea under VietGAP direction.

The process of making bitter melon tea bags

There are 2 kinds of tea including bitter melon tea bags and desiccated bitter melon tea. Those kinds of tea are packaged by vacuum pressers so that the products can be preserved longer.

According to Mr. Le Chi Hiep, through participating in the fairs, seeking markets and distributors, some units from the Northern and the Central of Vietnam and in the provincial area have approached the cooperative to learn about bitter melon tea products to make the distribution agreements. Furthermore, through seeking markets, some Thai enterprises also expressed their need on fresh bitter melon sources, so this can be a chance to spread the brand name of agricultural melon products of Thuy Duong.

It is expected that in 2019, the cooperative will buy freeze dryers to maintain the natural green color of the dried bitter melon products, and to catch the consumers’ attention. By vacuum packaging, the products are used to serve food processing in scarce season. In addition to the bitter melons, these freeze dryers also can desiccate other kinds of vegetables and fruits in rotational crops or intercropping in locality like watermelon, papaya, etc. Once it gets success, this will be a model to solve income for the cooperative and make output for farmers.

In order to get the stable and safe material source, in the time to come, the cooperative will invest, scale up and expand the area received the certificate of planting bitter melons under VietGAP direction. In the short term, the cooperative will guide and encourage local people to change farming techniques and apply the new advanced techniques in production, ensuring that there are no pesticide and heavy metals residuals, etc., to improve products’ quality.

Taking into production for half a year, the products of bitter melon tea of Thuy Duong agricultural cooperative have taken part in some fairs and conferences on product promotion. Currently, the High-Quality Products and Brands Survey Program 2018 (held by Vietnam Quality Institute in accordance with VNPaco Media standard) awarded gold medal to the bitter melon tea products of Thuy Duong agricultural cooperative for the high-quality products and brand name and granted the right of using identification.

Story, photos: Hoai Thuong

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