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Rice Article: Vietnam  

Rice paper rescues Tan Phuoc villagers
By Ho Nhut Trung
Vietnam News, March 4, 2004

DONG THAP — So, maybe you’ve come to the Mekong’s Lai Vung District to check out the famous fruit farms when you notice a lot of thin round wet paper things drying on bamboo screens. Everywhere. And maybe you wonder, what’s with this? What are they…"They" are rice papers, the hot new industry in town, and they’re taking the country by storm.

Lai Vung is famous for its banh trang, thin rice papers, used in making spring rolls, a popular Vietnamese food.

Produced mostly in the district’s small village of Tan Phuoc, the rice papers are sought after by dealers from across the country.

"Thanks to the brisk banh trang trade, our village has escaped from hungry and poverty situations in recent years," said Lam Hoang Son, deputy chairman of the Tan Phuoc People’s Committee.

Son said that making banh trang gives local farmers a chance to earn money, creating jobs mostly for women and children. "Nearly 200 families in my village now produce banh trang, and some of them are dong millionaires," he said.

Trinh Phuoc Loc is one such millionaire.

Loc learned how to make banh trang from his parents when he was a child. He began his own business after his marriage and now owns a small shop, employing five workers. Everyone in Loc’s family, including the kids, begins their working day late at night to the following afternoon.

"To make banh trang, workers have to soak and mill flour for hours before spreading them on bamboo screens which cover a hot water pot," said Loc, who has spent years teaching locals his skills. His rice papers, now the best known brand in the village, can be purchased in HCM City and Ha Noi.

"It’s difficult to make a thin and tough rice paper. Our Tan Phuoc villagers work hard to make their products’ fame," he said.

Loc’s family makes a profit of VND40,000 a day, but on Tet festival (Lunar New Year) they can earn about VND100,000.

His workers earn VND20,000 a day and there are tremendous spin off benefits for the community as well.

"Many local women prefer to buy rice papers from the village’s producers, sell them at other areas, and have made a good profit," Son said, adding that some of these women with the savings have began their own business and have developed a supply network by lending money to needy people.

According to Son, his village’s traditional job doesn’t need a big capital. "With only VND1 million, you can open a small shop," he said.

"Our committee plans to expand the job around the district, attracting more households to do the business. Building a big factory, using modern equipment to produce banh trang for export is our dream," he said. — VNS

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