Golden camellia flowers brighten the mountainous district of Quang Ninh

Saturday, Nov 26, 2022 15:02

Workers processing yellow camellia flowers at a facility. — VNA/VNS Photo

Growing wild in the forest of the mountainous district of Ba Che, Quang Ninh Province, golden camellia plants are providing local people with a stable livelihood, with selling prices of dried yellow camellia flowers ranging VND13-15 million per kg (US$523.45-603.99).

In 2010, realising the value of golden camellia flowers, people in the area planted them in a concentrated area. With outstanding properties for health that were researched and evaluated by scientific organisations, yellow camellia flowers are even sought after by foreign traders.

“Life-changing” trees

Over the past 10 years, people in Ba Che District have regularly picked yellow camellia leaves, buds, and flowers in natural forests to use for health or sell for high prices, ranging from VND13 to VND15 million a kg of dried flowers, while fresh flowers are purchased at an average price of VND600,000 per kg, fresh leaves are priced at VND50,000 a kg, and dried leaves are VND300,000-500,000 a kg.

Currently, the whole district has about 200 hectares planted with golden camellia trees. The growing areas are primarily concentrated in the communes of Don Dac, Dap Thanh, Thanh Lam, Thanh Son, Nam Son and Luong Mong. Now, about 100 hectares have been harvested. The average yield of fresh yellow camellia flowers is 20 tonnes a year, and that of fresh yellow tea leaves is 65 tonnes a year. Therefore, the district’s revenue from the golden camellia plant reaches over VND20 billion a year.

With the economic value of the golden camellia plant and the support from the new rural construction programme, all ethnic groups in the district have focused on growing this plant. After more than ten years of development, the golden camellia plant has brought stability to households participating in planting. If in 2015, the district's per capita income was VND17.5 million, then by 2022, it reached VND55 million, a gain of over VND37 million per person per year.

Trieu Quy Bao, a farmer in Bac Cai Village, Don Dac Commune, said that he is currently cultivating the golden camellia trees. At wholesale prices, each 15-20 cm tall plant costs around VND20,000; the tree will bloom after one year.

In the past, his family specialised in growing cinnamon, cuninghamia, and acacia trees, but now they grow the golden camellia trees for higher economic efficiency, which are harvested every year. On average, a tree produces 1-2 kg of fresh flowers each year, equivalent to about VND1 million. Taking care of the golden camellia tree is not too difficult; people should plant it under trees with a wide canopy, luminescent around the base of the tree, and fertilise it with organic fertilisers.

Trieu Kim Lien, from Lang Cong Village, Don Dac Commune, said that her family also planted nearly 600 golden camellia roots and has been harvesting them for three years.

The economic benefits are much higher than those of other crops. However, due to the small number of trees, the annual income is about VND400 million, Lien said, adding that this year she will cut branches to plant more and hope that the price and output will be stable.

Golden camellia buds. — VNA/VNS Photo Thanh Van

​Golden active ingredients

According to Associate Professor Dr. Dang Thi Cam Ha, former Head of the Institute of Biotechnology at the Vietnam Academy of Science and Technology, the golden camellia tree is a very good plant, containing good active ingredients that are beneficial to health, depending on the quantity and usage of each person.

For about 8 years, Ha has been researching the golden camellia tree in Ba Che District.

She said the yellow camellia trees are grown in the mountainous Ba Che ethnic group on soil with few impurities that has not been heavily influenced by chemicals, so the products are chemical-free. For golden camellia flowers, just soaking the flowers in water at 80 degrees or more has released many beneficial active ingredients without having to use other complicated measures.

To determine the activities of this plant, Ba Che District collaborated with the Vietnam Academy of Science and Technology in 2019 to send samples to the Netherlands' BioDetection Systems (BDS) for analysis and evaluation of the flowers' active ingredients. The findings revealed that golden camellia flowers possessed anti-cancer, anti-aging, anti-hormonal, and anti-metabolic properties.

Currently, to ensure the purchase and consumption of products by people growing golden camellia trees, there are two purchasing and processing facilities in the area. The golden flowers are collected once a year, around December to February of the lunar calendar, according to Hoang Thi Uy, Director of the Ba Che Golden Flower Tree Medicinal Cooperative.

Previously, there was only one purchasing facility in the district, in Dap Thanh Commune, so people with a small number of flowers were often afraid to sell due to the long distance, resulting in flowers blooming too soon and losing their economic value. Therefore, cooperatives were established to support favourable product consumption, bringing the highest economic value.

Uy also said that collecting yellow camellia flowers requires great care because the flowers bloom quickly, requiring people to visit and pick the flowers many times when they show signs of blooming to avoid being caught, resulting in a low economic value.

Yellow flowers are an OCOP product of Quang Ninh Province, according to Khieu Anh Tu, vice chairman of the Ba Che District People's Committee. Currently, the locality is carrying out procedures for the province to appraise and report to the Central Government to develop the golden camellia flower into a national brand.

The products, after being processed into finished products, are mainly sold as OCOP products and have not been widely developed for the consumption market. The district hopes that by evaluating this product as a 5-star national OCOP, it will raise awareness of the value and brand of Ba Che's yellow flower tea. It is expected that by 2025, about 400 hectares of yellow flower tea will be developed in the whole district. — VNS

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