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The barren land radiates fragrance

TTH.VN - Living in a place considered a ‘barren’ land, people in the hilly area of Phong Son - Phong Xuan - Phong My on the west of Phong Dien district were once skeptical when a businessman brought tens of billions of VND back to his hometown to establish a manufacturing plant for producing medicinal essential oils. Now that they are convinced, and feel happy upon breathing in the ‘air fragrant with scents from medicinal herbs’.

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 The medicinal garden of mint

The golden treasure of medicinal herbs is opened up

After many years of establishing a career in Ho Chi Minh City, Mr. Truong Nhu Mui saved tens of billions of VND and returned to Hue to invest in the production of essential oil. Born in the semi-mountainous land of Phong Son, Phong Dien district, with the love and desire to get attached with and contribute to his homeland, Mr. Mui chose Cong Thanh village, Phong Son commune to establish a manufacturing plant and a company named Cong Thanh Investment and Development Joint Stock Company, with himself holding the position of General Director. Upon his return to Hue, he aims to build a closed model, from raising and growing medicinal herbs to producing and consuming medicinal products.

After more than 4 years since his investment in the manufacturing plant of essential oil in Cong Thanh village, his company has gradually grown by applying advanced science and technology and creating competitive products in the domestic and international markets with the NEO brand.

Recalling the first period of operation, he shared that the production capacity of his company was still moderate due to its lack of proactivity regarding raw material sources. Sometimes when there was an order, the distillers couldn’t ‘operate’ due to the shortage of raw materials. At that time, it was thought that a mere investment large-scale infrastructure and modern technology with a ‘closed’ essential oil distillation and extraction system immune to oxidization would enable the yield of the desired product, but the insiders were completely wrong.

After the process of research and estimation, in case the average annual output of medicinal essential oils in Phong Dien is about 12 thousand liters, the raw material area being only 183 hectares will not be sufficient enough to supply local facilities’ regular operation, including Cong Thanh Investment and Development Joint Stock Company.

However, the potential for development and expansion of raw material areas in Phong Son and Phong Xuan is still enormous, with soil being suitable for a number of medicinal herbs. As a result, the company’s leaderboard proposed renting land and cooperating with people in the area to grow some medicinal herbs such as cajuput, mint, and lemongrass.

The approach of Cong Thanh Investment and Development Joint Stock Company is different from traditional small-scale producers, which is to invest in a large-scale, methodical and scientific production system to multiply the efficiency on the cultivated area. Then, in turn, many areas of mint, lemongrass, etc., grown according to VietGAP standards combined with traceability and production batches were formed and expanded.

 Packaging of the finished products of essential oils extracted 100% from natural medicinal herbs

Pioneering to stay on-trend

Not stopping at simple raw material sources and medicinal essential oil products, the company has participated in a ministerial-level science and technology project with the topic “Application of scientific and technological advances to build models of propagating, planting and preliminary preparing medicinal herbs Solanum procumbens and purple amomum in Thua Thien Hue" in the period of 2023 - 2025.

By receiving 5 technological processes from the North Central Medicinal Research Center, the company implemented a project in Phong Dien district with the propagation of Solanum procumbens medicinal plants to provide 1 million seedlings/year; Commercially growing Solanum procumbens 10ha/2 years according to GACP (Good Cultivation and Harvesting Practices) standards, yielding 1 ton of dry medicinal herbs/hectare; and commercially growing Purple Amomum 10ha/3 years, yielding 0.25 tons of dry medicinal herbs/ha.

From raw materials available, combined with a team of junior technicians who have a deep understanding and proficient practice of propagating, planting and harvesting techniques, the company conducts preliminary processing of medicinal herbs such as Solanum procumbens and purple amomum with the capacity of 500 - 1,000kg/day to produce products such as Solanum procumbens extracts and tea bags, as well as raw dried purple amomum to supply to pharmaceutical companies.

Along with Solanum procumbens and purple amomum, the company plans to develop an area of more than 270km2 in the hilly areas of Phong Son (more than 115km2) and Phong Xuan (more than 156km2) to grow more purple cassia, areca ginseng, Polyscias fruticosa, perilla, Hue cajuput, cinnamon, mint, Javanese lemongrass, etc.

From applying scientific and technological advances in planting and production, the company has now introduced to the market natural essential oil products, types of Solanum procumbens, purple amomum and various types of dishwashing liquid and floor cleaner, etc., with quality certified to meet Vietnam Pharmacopoeia standards.

Bringing Hue medicinal herbs onto the ‘world map’

An official from the Department of Science and Technology revealed that Hue cajuput essential oil and some medicinal products of the province are in the sights of being upgraded to national key products. Following this prediction, the pharmaceutical industry will indeed ‘take the throne’ and become a ‘hot’ commodity. But to avoid the situation of following unsustainable ‘trends’ and the risk of ‘premature death’, in the strategy for developing the pharmaceutical industry, the province is also very careful when setting requirements and proposing many solutions on how to be proactive in raw material areas and develop medicinal products into a commodity production industry.

Following this trend and strategy, many localities, including Phong Dien district, are also adapting to changing crop structure to increase economic efficiency, improve living standards and develop the local medicinal industry. The area of medicinal plants in Phong Dien is currently about 183 hectares, including cajeput, lemongrass, turmeric, artichoke, etc., distributed in the sandy inland areas of Phong Hoa, Dien Huong, Phong Chuong, Phong Hien communes as well as hilly areas of Phong An, Phong Son, Phong Xuan, Phong My communes.

The area of medicinal herbs is planned to be expanded by localities, for in addition to growing food crops and forestry plants, growing medicinal plants also bring quite high economic benefits. On average, 1 hectare of medicinal plants yields an income of 100 - 130 million VND/year or more, many times higher than other crops. Medicinal plants also generate income for workers, from 40 - 50.5 million VND/person/year.

Ms. Hoang Thi Ngoc Ly, CEO of Cong Thanh Investment and Development Joint Stock Company, further shared that the reason why this company chose Phong Son to build a factory to extract, process and display medicinal products was because it wanted to receive the companionship and understanding of indigenous people in the journey of sustainable development of the brand of NEO medicinal herbs. Luckily, since the company brought in new medicinal plants, it has helped increase productivity and economic efficiency, improving the quality of life for locals of Phong Son in particular and Phong Dien district in general. The company will still establish closer links in finance, technology and markets, building a team of good managers, sales and experts.

"Welcoming an enthusiastic investor, a pioneer in applying new technological achievements in medicinal production like Cong Thanh Investment and Development Joint Stock Company, is something admirable for the province's medicinal industry. This is also a ‘breast milk’ creating more jobs and income for people. More importantly, the quality and diversity of NEO medicinal products will contribute to limiting non-standard medicinal herbs of unknown origin on the market, contributing to good health care for the people,” said Mr. Ho Thang, Director of the Department of Science and Technology.

Story and photos: Hoai Thuong
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