Ten years ago those who were devoted to the development of the Vietnamese tea sector worked out a strategy to build and popularize the trademark of Vietnamese tea. From this strategy, the tea potential of many areas in the country has been promoted.
Situated at a height of 800-1,000m above sea level, Lam Dong Province is endowed with fertile soil and a favourable climate and it is a major tea-growing region in the country.
Throughout its three districts of Bao Loc, Bao Lam and Di Linh which are renowned tea-growing areas, green tea plants are seen everywhere. Since the 1930s Lam Dong tea has been well-known for its sweetness and fragrance. During that time the French came to this region to establish tea plantations and later more farms and households were set up.
Over nearly a century the total tea-cultivation area in the whole province has increased to over 26,000ha, providing over 183,500 tonnes of tea for domestic and foreign markets. According to statistics by the Ministry of Agriculture and Rural Development, the tea plants in Lam Dong Province accounts for 25 of the tea-cultivation area and 27 of the tea output of the whole country. The B’Lao tea variety together with the trade names of Tam Chau, Le Ky and Quoc Thai, etc., have brought fame to this southern tea-growing area.
B’Lao tea is much sought after in the South for its taste while tea connoisseurs in the North crave for other tea brands, such as Shan tuyet, Thai Nguyen and Suoi Giang. Located at a height of 600-1,500m above sea level, the mountainous areas in the North are windy and humid, suitable for the development of Shan tuyet tea plants.
Each time visiting the mountains in Hoang Su Phi District of Ha Giang Province at an altitude of over 1,000m above sea level we could not fail contemplating forests of age-old Shan tuyet tea plants covering thousands of hectares among the mist of the mountains. For hundreds of years these shrubs have been connected with the life of the local people who produce Shan tuyet tea products – a favourite of both domestic and foreign tea connoisseurs.
Tea plays an important role in the economic development of Son La Province. Since 2001, the tea-cultivation area in the province has increased from 1,800ha to over 4,000ha, including over 2,000ha on Moc Chau Plateau, nearly 480ha on Na San Plateau and Phieng Pan highland in Mai Son District and 325ha in the border area in Yen Chau District. There are 10 enterprises and two cooperatives engaging in tea production and trade. The province has established joint-ventures and leased land to foreign-funded companies, such as Ligarden (Taiwan) and Kengreen Farm (Japan) to produce tea for export.
In 2013, Vietnam exported more than 115,000 tonnes of tea within the first 10 months of 2013, earning US$186.6 million, according to the Ministry of Industry and Trade.
The country’s tea exports saw a 5.5 per cent decline in terms of volume and a 0.2 per cent decrease in value over the same period last year.
Of note, Pakistan remained Vietnam’s largest tea importer during the period, having purchased over 17,000 tonnes of tea worth $34.6 million.
However, the import turnover dropped 11 per cent in volume and 18 per cent in value compared with the corresponding period last year and accounted for 18.5 per cent of the total export value.
Taiwan was the second-largest tea importer, having purchased 19,500 tonnes, valued at $26.5 million, an increase of 2 per cent and 6 per cent in terms of volume and value, respectively.
Russia followed the top two, with 9,800 tonnes of tea, producing turnover of $15.9 million.
Tea exports to Poland, the United States and India maintained their growth rate from the same period last year, holding 19 per cent, 24.8 per cent and 31.1 per cent, respectively.
According to the Viet Nam Tea Association, some 90 per cent of Vietnamese tea was exported in the form of raw materials and only 10 per cent left the country as a finished product.