Vietnam Time

7/3/2018 3:08:33 PM

Dong Thap youngster works to promote Vietnamese lotuses to the world

After finishing his bio-chemistry master's program in France, Ngo Chi Cong decided to start his own business with lotus, the iconic flower of his hometown in Dong Thap province.

Ngo Chi Cong and his products made from preserved lotus flowers and leaves.

During the trips he made throughout his seven-years of studies in France, Cong was greatly interested in exploring souvenir products and decorative items made in Asian and European countries. “I told myself to do something to make souvenirs from Vietnam become more appreciated and popular around the world,” Cong recalled.

He said that lotus flowers are seen everywhere in his hometown and other provinces in the Mekong river delta, and products made from the lotus are popular among residents. However, despite the good quality, the products are sold at low prices, so it doesn’t help much in improving the life of the locals.

This encouraged him to change the situation and raise the value of our lotus so that farmers will not forsake their lotus ponds to cultivate rice instead.

With that thinking in mind, the young man from Dong Thap began his start-up project of preserving the lotus flowers. Different from roses, which have been successfully preserved by artisans in the Central Highlands province of Lam Dong, it is more difficult to do the same with lotuses since their petals quickly wilt after harvest.

His first attempt turned out to be a failure. The flowers were too dry, the colour of the petals were too bold and uneven, while the lotus stem was too hard.

Not to be discouraged, Cong reviewed every step of the process in order the make appropriate adjustments while seeking out new technology, and managed to acquire the necessary skills for the work.

Despite his efforts, the second attempt wasn’t successful either.

It wasn’t until one year later, on his third attempt, that his efforts were rewarded. The dried flowers met his strict criteria. The failure rate in preserving the flowers is estimated to be under 10% per batch. In addition, Cong’s products have become more sellable, helping him escape from debt and seek more investment for the business.

With modern and environmentally-friendly technology, Cong is now able to add different shades to the lotus petals while preserving the natural scent of the blossoms and keeping their freshness and liveliness for up to one year.

In the past, lotus growers could only sell seed heads and flowers for less than a dollar per kilogram. They used to struggle to find an outlet for the lotus. But now, Cong’s company collect thousands of lotus flowers and leaves each month for the products at very reasonable prices for farmers.

After he expanded operations, Cong began to provide training for local young people with disabilities and recruited them for his company.

“I provide training for them for free and pay them with money equal to ordinary workers. Although people with disabilities might have lower productivity than others, they receive the same income. I think it is a good way to encourage them in their job and inspire their attachment to Dong Thap’s lotuses,” Cong said.

Cong has also utilised lotus leaves, a low-cost material, and turned them into high-value products.

Not only working with lotus blossoms, Cong has also utilised lotus leaves, a low-cost material, and turned them into high-value souvenirs and products. Wallets, notebooks, paintings and baskets made from lotus leaves have become attractive products in Vietnam and neighbouring countries such as Laos, Cambodia and Myanmar.

He has exported several batches of dried lotus flowers and had his products displayed at souvenir shops in a number of countries around the world thanks to support from his friends.

Most recently, Cong succeeded in processing and making Vietnamese conical hats made from naturally-dyed lotus leaves, which are expected to make a big impression on international customers.

He is also working on making high-quality thread from lotus roots for the textile industry, which will bring a source of revenue dozens of times higher than preserved lotuses.

Ngo Chi Cong has become a vanguard in commercialising popular materials in his hometown. The overall goal of this enthusiastic entrepreneur is to discover how to best advertise Vietnamese lotuses to a global customer base. Each of his products is made not only with his own signature trademark but also with the pride of a Vietnamese son./.

VNF/NDO  
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