The success of a pilot project of growing Shan Tuyet tea trees has provided a feasible solution to sustainable poverty-alleviation for ethnic groups in the northern mountainous province of Tuyen Quang.

The project began in 2000 in Na Hang district, where sloping and mountainous terrains pose difficulties to agricultural and forestry production.

“We have tried all sorts of plants before, but none of them could grow on this sloping land. Luckily, the Shan Tuyet tea trees survived and grow well despite the drought, so it became the main crop here,” said Hoang Van Linh, chairman of Sinh Long commune’s People’s Committee.

The four target communes of Sinh Long, Hong Thai, Thuong Nong and Son Phu have now put over 1,100 ha of land under Shan Tuyet tea trees. Sinh Long commune has the largest area with more than 800 hectares.

According to Linh, all the land area previously left uncultivated has now been covered by the tea trees. Many local households in the local have risen above poverty thanks to the trees, he said.

Before 2000, Sinh Long was the poorest commune in the district with the rate of poverty among its households hitting 80 percent. Now, this rate has dropped to 40 percent.

Hoang Phin, a local Dao ethnic farmer said he began to harvest tea buds three years after planting, and his family harvested over 7 tonnes of tea buds each year from their 20 ha of Shan Tuyet trees, earning over 50 million VND (approximate 2,500 USD).

In addition, this kind of tea fetches a higher price than those grown in lower land, as the tea leaves are thick and green, with big and white buds, hence the name of Tuyet (snow). One kilogramme of fresh Shan Tuyet tea buds is priced at 8,000-12,000 VND, higher than the prices of other kinds of tea from 3,000-6,000 VND.

All Shan Tuyet tea harvests in the district are bought by Viet Dung tea processing company, which installed a modern production line with a capacity of one tonne of tea leaves per day in 2009.

The tea tree has brought about great changes in Na Hang district’s economic structure. The district authorities are encouraging other communes to research their soil conditions with a view to expanding the acreage of Shan Tuyet tea trees.-VNA