In-depth
Uncertain future for Hanoi's traditional young rice village
  • By Nam Hang | dtinews.vn | October 03, 2012 03:47 PM
 >>  Autumn’s flavour

Me Tri pounded young rice (com) Village in Hanoi’s Tu Liem District, which has a history of more than 100 years, is facing the high risk of falling into oblivion.

In past years, during this season most households in the village were busy making products from young rice, the sound of rice pestles resounded through the area. In the early mornings people went to the fields to harvest the year's rice crop.

The elders and children often sorted and cleaned the rice before husking and separating the grain, solid grain was then roasted before being being placed into the mortar pestle. Then, the com was brought to the market for sales in the morning.

 

Com is a popular seasonal food in Hanoi

In 1999, the majority of households in the village turned to cultivating glutinous rice for com production, making the atmosphere around production time seem a lot like a festival.

Rapid urbanisation, however, has limited the farm land of the area's residents, affecting com production, said Do Danh Lo, Head of Me Tri Ha Hamlet. Currently Me Tri Ha and Me Tri Thuong hamlets have around 60 com producers, most in Me Tri Ha Hamlet, a very modest figure compared to past years, when all households joined in the process.

The people of the village start their 30-50km journeys to different localities in Hanoi’s outlying communes and Bac Ninh Province to buy paddy for making com. Meanwhile, they face difficulties in the production consumption, particularly since when Hanoi’s Vong Village-branded com was detected to contained toxic dyes.

Le Thi Thuy Giang, a com seller in Me Tri Ha Hamlet, said that “Now, com production is a hard work. We have to get up at 3:00 a.m. to husk rice and take it to the local com market, which opens at 3:30 a.m. It also takes a lot of time to travel to other surrounding localities to buy more paddy, usually from 8am to 11am, sometimes even to 2pm. But earnings for our efforts stays low, maybe just around VND2 (USD95.2) million per month.”

Branding

Despite having a long-standing tradition in the trade, Me Tri Village has not yet established a trademark for its green rice products.

Do Huy Hung, a senior local com craftsman, said that for years the people of Me Tri have have only paid attention to retail sales, and have neglected attempting to brand their products, and so Me Tri com has not become a well-known trademark.

Most consumers know about com products from Vong Village, but those from Me Tri have been overlooked, Hung admitted, adding that people bring the products to the market for wholesale, and then it is taken all over Hanoi for sales without consumers knowing its origin.

“Me Tri residents sell their com products, but do not take care to make sure people know where it was made. Com from Me Tri is still wrapped in the traditional way, with lotus leaves, but there is no branding to make consumers aware of where it was produced. Some traders use this as a way to impose other brands on Me Tri products," Hung said.

He also disclosed that, at present, only four households in Vong Village still make com, yet Vong's com still floods the market. It is likely that many people in Vong Village come to Me Tri to buy and then label it with their own brand.

According to Mr. Hung, in spite of earning a modest income, com production has the potential to generate jobs for local households because the work is labour-intensive. Each household that produces com could employ around 20 people: buyers, processors and sellers.

He hopes that management agencies will support Me Tri to create a recognisable brand for consumers that could be sold along side Hanoi's other traditional autumn foods.

Do Danh Lo, Head of Me Tri Ha Hamlet, said, “We have plans for the promotion of com produced in Me Tri. But we also have a limited budget and it is difficult work. We are really counting on assistance from the authorities for this project."

Festival a chance to promote Me Tri com

A festival with folk games, performances and seminars in honour of Me Tri's com will be held on October 6, at Me Tri Ha Hamlet’s communal house by the Students in Free Enterprise Team (SIFE) of the National Economy University, in the co-operation with local authorities. They aim to promote com products and give people a chance to enjoy both the food and the cultural activities of the village.

Me Tri villagers will demonstrate how com is traditionally made and even teach visitors how to do it themselves. The festival is expected to attract 30 stalls and 3,000 visitors. The organiser expects to hold the festival every two years.

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