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The kind of plant that eats a handful of salt and pays a gold poop

Invincible crops

1 golden stool (1/10 only) is the average rate, and the trees with beautiful fruit chambers have to collect double or triple. In this Hai Duong commune (Hai Hau district, Nam Dinh province), after each season, people will invite each other to buy gold, that’s how many old people accumulate the style of “eating well, wearing durable”. Nguyen Van At’s wife in Hoanh Don village is no exception.

She told me that there is no tree that invests only 1 dong and earns 100 dong like the areca tree in her hometown today: “My family has more than 500 areca rhizomes that are in the fruiting period. Every year we have to feed them with salt twice, in February and September of the lunar calendar, when the rainy season is over. In addition to salt, I also add a little phosphate fertilizer. It is calculated that every year, investing only 3 quintals of salt, 3 quintals of phosphorus is over 2 million to harvest.

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Mr. At’s wife is feeding the plants with salt. (Photo: Duong Dinh Tuong)

At the same time, Mr. At explained to me that areca is suitable for the soil in the polder area and the soil still contains salt. Hundreds of years ago, when Hai Duong was a new land, it was very fruity to grow areca, but over time it was sweetened, so it had to be added with salt, while communes near the sea such as Hai Chau, Hai Hoa… did not need it.

“Every 4 or 5 years expensive areca is cheap, but no matter how cheap it is, it is still much better than growing rice. On average, each year the areca root produces 7-8 kg of fruit, last year the selling price was 40,000 – 50,000 VND/kg, I collected about 200 million VND, this year the selling price was 80,000 – 90,000 VND/kg, I estimated to collect 300 million VND. In addition to selling areca nut, I also sell 10,000 areca seedlings each season, at the price of 20,000 VND/tree, I also collect about 200 million more…

My two sons, after many years of working outside, now come home to grow areca with their father. They have just built 2 houses, more than billion and a half billion. Now for us, even if we have a year of social distancing, it won’t be a problem because vegetables are available in the garden, chickens are available in the coop, fish are available in the pond, and rice is available on the areca trees 9-10m high.” .

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Village road in Hai Duong. (Photo: Duong Dinh Tuong)

The strange thing is that everyone in Hoanh Don has areca, but the whole village now has only a few people eating betel nut. Areca is grown once and “eats” for a lifetime, people live to 80, 90 years old, but the tree is still harvested. Mr. At’s areca garden has many trees that are 60 – 70 years old planted by his parents’ hands, 40 – 50 years old trees planted by his husband and wife, 10 – 20 years old trees planted by his children’s hands.

They stood next to each other, all as tall as rows of proud soldiers carrying guns. The straighter the areca body, the more curved the gardener is, the closer the areca top is to the sky, the closer the garden owner’s life is to the earth, but the deep love between trees and people is still as green as ever.

Areca is planted for 2 years, when it is about 1.5m high, it must be lowered once by digging the gourd, replanting it, 20 – 30cm deeper than the old one to make it short, grow slowly, and have many fruits.

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Mr. Do Thanh Minh – Head of hamlet 6 next to areca trees. (Photo: Duong Dinh Tuong)

Mr. Do Thanh Minh – Head of hamlet 6 in Hoanh Don village told me that there are 156 households in the hamlet, all of them have areca. Fewer households are newly-married couples with about 30-50 roots, average households are 200-300 roots, and large households are 700-800 roots. That is only counting the trees that are being harvested, not counting the growing ones.

Talking about Hoanh Don means talking about buffalo grazing ground, buffalo station, buffalo eye well, Thien Tao river and can not fail to mention the four seasons of immense green areca. In the past, when villagers planted a betel nut garden, they would have a betel rig next to it to carry it to Hanoi, to Hai Phong, to carry it to Thanh Hoa to sell.

42 years ago when I bought this land, my grandfather told me to grow areca because it is a plant that never fails. Therefore, in my garden, there are 45-year-old areca roots, and 40-year-old roots are common. Now, whoever has a large garden in the neighborhood has no reason not to be rich. Last year, the price of areca was cheaper, 5-7 households made a profit of hundreds of millions, this year the price of areca is so expensive, it must be 15-20 households with such income, the rest collect 50-70 million is common.

Like I have more than 5 sao of garden with more than 400 areca roots and sell thousands of seedlings every year, so in 2020 the profit is about 300 million, this year is estimated at 450 million. My daughter Do Thi Nhung has 2.5 acres of garden, the upper floor is areca, the lower floor is guava, an average of 2 million a day.

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Fun with gardens, fish ponds. (Photo: Duong Dinh Tuong)

Mr. Minh’s house follows the old style of tiled roofs with wooden trusses made of brown iron that are glossy and colored over the years. In the hot weather, I entered as cool as the air conditioner. Hoanh Don has 80% houses built in the south direction with ponds and gardens, the top floor is areca, the high floor is the dragon fruit hanging across the areca stem, the lower floor is fruit trees.

Not only planted in the garden, around the fence, but also planted on both sides of the road with straight horizontal dongs, so that in the hot sun, pedestrians seem to get lost in the clear green. No wonder, former Minister of Agriculture and Rural Development Le Huy Ngo once had to say: “Hoang Don is only invested 600 million to build a new countryside, but other places have invested even 6 billion, not like this.” That’s why the American and Japanese delegations walked between the rows of areca trees in the middle of the hot weather, but took off all their hats to see the tall trees, inhale the sweet scent of the sky and ask people to climb. Up to the top of the tree, he picked down a bunch of flowers, admiring and admiring.

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A house in Hai Duong is surrounded by areca trees. (Photo: Duong Dinh Tuong)

Farmer over 90 years old Nguyen Van Binh said that in his life, he witnessed two times of expensive areca: The most expensive was more than 40 years ago, when 1kg of dried areca can be exchanged for 1 gold, Mr. Pham Van Lien at that time bought a garden with 5 houses. Tiles, iron columns are only a few dried areca nests. The second most expensive is the last 2 years, when 1kg of dried areca is sold for approximately 1 inch of gold (1/10 only).

The “drunk” of the whole village, the whole commune

I just chewed a piece of areca candy, but my mouth was hot and my head was still dizzy like a drunk. However, it is not equal to the “drunk” of the whole village, the whole Hai Duong commune with the current areca nut. When I arrived, Mr. Le Xuan Hiep’s kiln was red with fire and misty. After being boiled for about 1.5 hours, areca will be dried in a boiler for 4 days.

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Boil areca. (Photo: Duong Dinh Tuong)

Last year, the output of areca in Hai Duong commune was about 900 tons of fresh fruit, with a total revenue of about 60 billion, and this year the output is similar, but the total revenue will be higher. However, this output is not much compared to the capacity of the drying kilns, so this season is making mainly areca nut imported from Thailand. With so many varieties and quality, people from China’s processing companies come back every season to set up posts in the commune to monitor whether goods are mixed, overtaken or not.

Every 5 tons of fresh areca will produce 1 ton of dried areca. Hiep said: “My furnace is a small one out of a total of more than 30 in the commune. In May, I dry in the West, in July and August in the Central Highlands, in Quang Nam, and in September, I go back to my hometown.

Areca is put into drying of all kinds, sold to China, the cheapest dried 1kg products are Thai and Myanmar areca, 230,000 – 240,000 VND, Western areca are 280,000 – 300,000 VND, Quang Nam and Hai Phong areca are 370,000 – 380,000 VND, while Hai Hau areca is priced at 450,000 VND because it is the sweetest and softest.

Must choose to buy many fruits of type 1, ie 4.3cm long, accounting for 70% or more, type 2 4cm long, accounting for 20%, and type 3 shorter than 4cm, the ratio is as low as possible. Last year, the price of fresh areca is 40,000 – 50,000 VND/kg, each ton of drying is profitable 10 – 15 million, so the small kiln makes 400 – 500 million VND and the big kiln makes double, three billion, or even more. This year, fresh areca is expensive, and it is infected with the Covid-19 epidemic, so the trucks carrying fresh goods from all over the world come back less, the trucks carrying dry goods to the border also face difficulties, the profits and losses are offset, the kilns are in a draw condition. This business is also very precarious, with a family a few years ago had to sell their house to pay off debt.

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A fence made of areca and green trees. (Photo: Duong Dinh Tuong)

Hiep used to go to factories as big as an industrial park in China’s Hunan province to see the processing of areca candy from fruit pulp mixed with malt, mint to eat instead of chewing gum to fight cold and flu. Each candy pack consisting of 10 pieces from 5 halved areca berries made from local mixes costs about 80,000 VND, but if made from Hai Hau’s standard areca nut, it will cost 150,000 VND.

According to Mr. Tran Thanh Huyen – Chairman of Hai Duong Commune People’s Committee, areca is mainly grown on garden land, but the exact area cannot be counted because of all types of intercropping. If conversion is allowed, then “release” one, the rice field today but tomorrow 100% will turn into betel nut beds.

Explaining that these two years are expensive, some people say that China has imported them to make anti-flu drugs, others say that recently, China has flooded all of its stockpiles of dried betel nut to make candy, so demand has increased suddenly.

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