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High-Quality Tea: A Growth Pillar
20 | 09 | 2007
Vietnam is a new member of the World Trade Organization (WTO) and members of the Vietnam Tea Association understand the importance of growing high-quality, safe tea and they realize that only by providing quality products can their businesses profit and grow. Thus far, there are only 15 Vietnamese tea companies that are ISO 9001-2000 and HACCP quality management certified.

The Vietnamese tea industry is growing rapidly. The trend is to grow progressively less black tea and increasing more green tea and specialty teas. The Vietnam Tea Association said that the varieties of tea being grown are also changing. High-yield, high-quality tea varieties are increasingly being used and hybridized. By the end of 2006, such varieties were grown on more than 40,000ha, 35.4 percent of the total tea in tea, compared with 30 percent, a number that was set for 2010 by Government Decision 43. In Vietnam there are 152 tea varieties. Seven varieties  have gotten the go-ahead from the Ministry of Agriculture and Rural Development for experimental planting in large areas. These varieties are Kim Tuyen, Thuy Ngoc, Bat Tien, Keo Am Tich, Hung Dinh Bach, PT 95 and Phuc Van Tien. The Ministry of Agriculture and Rural Development has acknowledged 13 varieties of high-quality Shan tea and allowed farmers to grow them in large areas.

In tea and fruit provinces, hundreds of tea nurseries do meet quality standards. The Science Technology Council of the Vietnam Tea Association has approved plans for new varieties of tea across the country. Many companies have produced high-yield, high quality teas. The Moc Chau Tea Company gets almost five tonnes of dried tea per hectare, the Phu Da Tea Joint Venture Company 3.2 tonnes of dried tea or 14 tonnes of tea buds per hectare, and the Phu Ben Tea Company 2.5 tonnes of dried tea per hectare. Several companies in Lam Dong province are growing Kim Tuyen tea and have produced more than six tonnes of this kind of tea per hectare. Lam Dong provincial authorities say that high-quality tea brings high revenue. For example, an hectare of Olong Thanh Tam tea, from which Olong tea is made, has been sold for more than VND1 billion and Kim Tuyen tea (also used in making Olong tea) can generate about VND300 million per hectare.

Members of the Vietnam Tea Association have registered brand names. The Moc Chau Tea Company, for example, has its Shan Tuyet Moc Chau brand. The Association has allowed 24 companies to market 52 products with the national brand, Che Viet (Vietnam Tea), which has been registered in 73 countries.

Dr. Tran Van Gia, the deputy chairman of the Vietnam Tea Association, said that its still the case that most Vietnamese tea is sold unprocessed to foreign buyers who then process and package the tea. Their final product sells for 5-20 times the price of the raw tea.

The quantity and quality of Vietnamese tea is unstable and there are many reasons given for this. First, there are a lot of licensed tea factories but most do not use good equipment, they do not operate under a plan, and they could process 2-3 times more than they ever buy. In a given tea-growing area there are many tea companies. They struggle among themselves to buy the locally tea grown. Sometimes the tea harvested is substandard. Many tea factories do not meet food safety and hygiene standards. This being the case, the quality of Vietnamese tea is not likely to improve, or at least not until safety and hygiene laws are enforced.

Now that Vietnam is a member of the WTO, tea quality should be a goal and should be recognized as the means to raise competitiveness. Dr. Tran Van Gia said that tea processing factories must be located in tea growing areas and that the people that own the factories must grow enough to meet half their production capacity, the rest to be purchased from tea farmers on contract. Provincial authorities should plan tea growing areas and tea factories. This could stabilize and improve the quantity and quality of tea, and lead to a more healthy product. All tea grown in Vietnam should be processed here, and only standard tea products should be sold. If this can be done, the quality of Vietnamese tea will improve. 

(Source: Ministry of Agriculture and Rural Development)
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