Once a tree just to cover the vacant mountains, no one to take care of, but today, the star anise tree has helped people in the northern mountains to get rich.

Planting star anise trees to cover vacant mountains

Star anise has been planted in many localities of Cao Bang province for a long time. But it was not until the early 1990s that star anise trees were introduced in the districts: old Tra Linh (now merged as Trung Khanh district), Thach An, Bao Lac, Bao Lam, etc under PAM projects, programs 30a, and 135.

Through the introduction, we visited Cao Chuong commune, Tra Linh district (old), now merged as Trung Khanh district, one of the localities with the largest and oldest star anise area in Cao Bang province.

The canopy of star anise trees is quite thick and wide. Star anise not only brings an income from flowers but also has great significance to improve forest coverage and quality. (Photo: Cong Hai)

Mr. La Van Canh in Doong Giai village, former Chairman of Cao Chuong commune, said: At that time, many areas of hill and forest were still vacant. Implementing the forest land allocation program, each household was assigned about 3-4 ha of forest, some households 7-8 ha. In the early 1990s, the State supported forest seedlings, including star anise under the PAM program. From 1997 to 2000 was the period when the most star anise area was planted.

However, at that time, the majority of local people did not know how to plant star anise in the right way. In addition, the value of star anise flower 20 years ago was low, so people only treat star anise trees as forest trees to cover the mountains and almost did not take care of them.

Mr. Thang Van An, Chairman of the People’s Committee of Cao Chuong Commune said: Recognizing that star anise is a tree suitable to the local climate and soil conditions, and bringing high economic efficiency, the commune has put star anise into the economic development strategy and oriented to become a spearhead tree in poverty reduction.

Through projects, the Commune has coordinated with the district to invest in seedlings, guide the techniques of planting and caring, and propagandize farmers to expand the area of star anise trees.

Thanks to the right techniques, the forest of star anise in Doong Giai village, Cao Chuong commune, Trung Khanh district is well developed. (Photo: Toan Nguyen)

Up to now, most of the villages in the commune have an area of star anise cultivation but are much concentrated in Ban Pat, Doong Giai, Tai Nam, Tan Lap, and Son Lo with a total area of over 600 hectares, of which nearly 500 hectares are being harvested with an average yield of 3 – 4 tonnes/ha, an average output of 1,300 – 1,500 tonnes of fresh star anise. The annual income from the star anise flower of the whole commune is 30 – 40 billion VND.

Mr. Ha Minh Hai, Head of the Agriculture and Rural Development Department of Trung Khanh district, said: Star anise tree is one of the main crops of the district. In recent years, when the price of star anise flower has increased and stabilized, people have become well aware of the investment in care and fertilization to grow star anise well from planting to harvest.

The area of star anise trees in the whole district is now more than 1,000 ha, of which, about 90% is being harvested. Annually, the average production of fresh star anise flowers in the district is about 2,500 – 3,000 tonnes, mainly concentrated in Cao Chuong, Xuan Noi communes, and Tra Linh town.

Each year, star anise brings an average income of VND 50 – 70 billion to the people. By planting star anise, many households have an average income of 20 – 30 million VND/year, even 100 – 200 million VND/year. Star anise trees have really brought high income, changing the lives of many households in Trung Khanh district.

Every year, the district coordinates with the Management Board of the Quay Son River Protection Forest to implement new planting and replacement of old and inefficient star anise trees. From many sources, Trung Khanh district also supports seedlings and fertilizers for farmers to continue expanding the star anise area.

Turn the star anise into a high-value commodity tree

Speaking of star anise trees, Thach An is a developing district with the largest area in Cao Bang province. Currently, Thach An district has 2,560 ha of star anise, concentrated in the communes: Van Trinh, Duc Xuan, Le Lai, Thuy Hung, Duc Long, Quang Trong, and Dong Khe Town.

Currently, the star anise tree brings the main income to the farmers in Cao Bang province, many households get rich thanks to this tree. (Photo: Cong Hai)

The star anise crop in 2021, Mr. Hoang Van Dien in Lung Man village, Van Trinh commune had a bumper crop. More than 4 hectares of his star anise brought an income of nearly 200 million VND thanks to the high and stable price of star anise in both the main and off seasons.

Mr. Sien said: “Thanks to star anise, my family’s life has changed a lot. From the original small area, so far with 4 hectares of star anise, of which more than 3 hectares for harvest has brought an average income of 80 to more than 100 million VND/year. Thanks to this tree, my family built a house, the life has been more and more improved. “

Planting star anise trees is quite simple, only having to put the effort in care and protection when the plant is young; when the plant has grown higher than 1m, it does not take much care and pest control like some other crops, but its economic efficiency is relatively stable and for long-term harvest. Each year, star anise flowers two times in a row.

The first round of flowers is from the end of June to the end of July and the harvest season is from December of the previous year to February of the next year. The second round of flowers continues right after the first one, then from August to September, star anise will be harvested. After harvesting, people in the commune mainly sell fresh star anise to small traders from Cao Bang and Lang Son cities.

Currently, the market for star anise consumption has been very favorable. (Photo: TN)

“The price of star anise flowers in recent years has been quite high. The average price of fresh star anise flowers is from VND 30,000 – 45,000/kg, even VND 80,000 – 90,000/kg. The stagnation of star anise and price pressure from traders have no longer happened as in previous years “, Mr. Sien added.

Ms. Hoang Thi Duyen, Director of Cao Bang Provincial Forest Protection Department, said: Star anise trees, in addition to their high economic value from star anise flower products, are valuable forestry trees covering vacant hills in many localities of Cao Bang province.

In addition to the policy of supporting intensive investment in the existing area of star anise and renovation of old age forests, The additional intercropping and new planting in the vacant land of the star anise forest are also concerned.

In the past time, the processes from selecting varieties, plant nurseries, planting, care, and protection to harvesting have also been propagated by all levels to improve productivity and quality of star anise products. People have suffered from forest development once or twice a year, fertilizing to develop trees well. Therefore, the production of star anise has also increased, no longer depending on the weather as before.

To improve the value, it is necessary to attract more businesses to invest in the deep processing of star anise products. (Photo: CH)

According to statistics, the area of star anise in Cao Bang province is more than 5,000 hectares, mainly concentrated in districts: Thach An, Bao Lac, Trung Khanh, and Bao Lam. Annually, fresh and dried star anise flowers are sold to traders inside and outside the province to export to China.

In addition, in Bao Lac and Bao Lam districts, many cooperative groups and households have invested in machines to extract essential oils from star anise leaves, resulting in higher economic value. Some essential oil products have achieved the provincial OCOP 3-star product, which is well rated for quality.

Mr. Nguyen Ngoc Truan, Deputy Director of Cao Bang Department of Agriculture and Rural Development, said that: Cao Bang’s soil condition is very suitable for star anise trees. In the coming years, the star anise tree is still one of the main multi-use forestry trees in the economic development and poverty reduction in many localities.

It can be seen that the value of processed star anise flowers and leaves will be much higher than fresh products, however, the number of households and cooperative groups participating in processing is still small. Along with that, star anise production in the province is now highly dependent on the Chinese market.

With the potential of star anise trees, in addition to expanding the area, Cao Bang province needs to call on investors to build factories to process products from star anise trees. Focusing on deep processing from star anise, if there is a factory, will help cover the entire production of star anise, thereby helping growers benefit from stable and sustainable output, creating many products to meet the demand for export, and contributing to high income for star anise growers.