In the fall, star anise blooms. This time is harvest season for farmers in Lang Son. The life of people here has changed a lot since they became closely attached to this type of tree. The authority is looking for a stable direction so that star anise can bring higher benefits for local people.
(Star Anise forest in Langson province)
In August, when the fall comes, endless star anise forests full of flowers surrounding villages in Van Quan district, Lang Son province emit magically such a charming scent. The locals start to gather this specialty. Mr. To Van Dong (Yen Phuc village, Van Quan district) with his family members carefully pick each star anise flower. According to experienced farmers, star anise branches are big but easy to break, thus, they should be gathered only on sunny days. If a star anise tree is harvested at the right time, it can generate more fruits in the next season.
“I have grown star anise for more than 20 years. This type of tree does not need much care. There are two crops each year: Fall season and Spring season. Our family starts the Spring crop in December and the Fall crop in July. Growing star anise brings more profit than corn or potato. Since we started growing star anise, our family’s life is more stable. Here, most locals grow star anise as their main crop because of its high economic benefits. Now, traders will come to our house to buy fresh star anise so we no longer have to bring them to the market.” Mr. To Van Dong said.
(Star Anise tree with height 6-10m)
After harvest, star anise flowers will be sold to traders or local factories. Mr. Nong Van Suong (Na Hay hamlet, Binh Phuc village, Van Quan district) has attached to star anise tree for over 40 years. He said that the proportion of essential oil in Vietnam star anise is up to 10-12%, much higher than China star anise flower. Since 2018, he has taken part in a program to grow and harvest organic star anise.
“Each year, I can harvest 30-40 tons of organic star anise flowers from 5 hectares forest area. This fall is a bumper crop, star anise flowers are particularly bigger with higher quantity so I can collect 50 tons. Export partners are buying at 35.000 VND per kilogram. The profit excluding all expenses is 150 million VND. I am so excited” Mr. Nong Van Tu said.
Organic star anise provides more benefits than usual. Yet, the method applied by Mr. Nong Van Tu’s family has not yet become popular among all other families in the province. After picking star anise, the locals almost prepare and dry them for selling so their economic value is very low. Besides, Lang Son’s star anise products are now highly dependent on China market.
In the context of the Covid 19 pandemic in 2021, all businesses are facing many challenges. However, over 12.000 tons of dried star anise were still exported with an average price of US$10.500 per ton. Income from star anise has contributed to hunger elimination and poverty reduction for people in the mountainous region of Lang Son province.
(Dried Star Anise Whole Cleaned)
“Regarding star anise processing, we have called for investment. Shortly, our district is building a factory for processing star anise with modern technologies and equipment to guarantee both quantity and quality of star anise. It will help growers get more benefits, have a sustainable output, produce more products that can be exported to other countries, especially the EU market. Now, materials areas are stable, so we want more and more enterprises to come and invest in star anise production. It can create competition, contribute to the raise of star anise products value in the whole province.” Mr. Nong Van Tung, Head of Van Quan district’s Agriculture Office said.
Van Quan is the largest district growing star anise of Lang Son with more than 14.000 hectares (11.000 hectares are providing fruits) distributed evenly around the province. In 2020, 27.000-30.000 tons of fresh star anise brought 600-700 billion VND for the locals. To make a breakthrough for Lang Son’s specialty, the authority of Lang Son province has built a “Strategy for developing material trees linked to processing and exporting in Lang Son until 2025 and vision to 2030” including star anise. Material areas are focused on important districts including Van Quan, Binh Gia, and Van Lang with 20.000 hectares in total.