Happy pineapple, happy exporter:

Fiber products reach foreign markets

06:00 | 15/02/2022 Origin of Goods

(VEN) - Nguyen Huu Hanh from the central province of Nghe An’s Dien Chau District will always remember September 2021, when pineapple leaf fiber products he and his partners created were first time introduced and welcomed abroad.

Green startup

Hanh told Vietnam Economic News that his father died at an early age and he himself chose life at sea. But over time, he kept thinking about the farmers back home and the fact they invest 18 months in just one crop just for the fruit. Six years ago, in an effort to improve the value of his native land’s pineapples and ease pollution caused by the discarded leaves, he decided to quit his high-income job as a vessel captain and return to his home village to grow pineapples and split fibers from the leaves.

fiber products reach foreign markets
Nguyen Huu Hanh with pineapple leaf fiber-based products

Hanh, 32, founded his Dua Hanh Phuc (Happy Pineapple) Cooperative with seven members, providing jobs for more than 50 seasonal workers. Hanh began his business with almost no experience so he had to work and learn at the same time. Hanh said his cooperative’s first products were fresh pineapples, and pineapple tea and nectar with the Duhapu brand (a short name for happy pineapple). A fresh pineapple is sold for only VND3,000-4,000 but cold dried ones sell for VND12,000.

Hanh said that after harvest, it takes farmers time and cost to destroy or burn pineapple leaves to prevent environmental pollution. Thinking about this, Hanh found ways to split fibers from the leaves to reduce pollution and create new livelihoods for local people.

He searched on the internet and found that in many countries, fibers are split from pineapple leaves for production of textile, garment and other products, and Hanh decided to try it in his homeland.

The fiber splitting machine procured by Hanh has a knife system, which breaks the flesh and retains the tough silk of the leaves. The machine can squeeze three tonnes of leaves a day, after which the silk is soaked in pineapple vinegar, dried, spliced and spun.

“A fiber splitting machine costs VND50 million and is capable of splitting five kilograms of fiber from every 100kg of pineapple leaves. The raw pineapple fiber is sold for VND800,000 per kilo. Usually, farmers earned VND350 million from fresh pineapple fruits for each 18-month crop, but now they can earn an additional VND60-70 million from the leaves,” Hanh said.

He said the cooperative will purchase pineapple fruit and leaves from other provinces - Ninh Binh and Thanh Hoa, in addition to Nghe An, and provide fiber splitting machines for households, enabling them to make yarn after harvest. The cooperative will buy all fibers split by farmers. Farmers can either sell the leaves or split fibers from leaves themselves and sell the raw fibers to Ecosoi - a company founded in early 2021 by Hanh and two partners. Hanh is currently the company’s technical director.

fiber products reach foreign markets
fiber products reach foreign markets
Fibers extracted from pineapple leaves are very strong, suitable for making bags, hammocks and handicrafts

Bringing pineapple fibers to foreign markets

Ecosoi introduced its first pineapple leaf fiber-based products at the GWAND Sustainable Festival in Luzern, Switzerland in September 2021. Visitors were drawn not only to the hand-woven bags, high-class handbags, hammocks, and fine art and handicraft but also to the story behind them - environmentally friendly products made using local materials and human resources, helping improve livelihoods and having a positive impact on society. The company found new cooperation opportunities, and after working with partners in the UK, Ecosoi is expected to become a supplier of pineapple leaf fibers for the world’s largest manufacturers.

fiber products reach foreign markets
Pineapple leaf fiber-based products

When the Covid-19 pandemic interrupted exports, Hanh focused on research to create new products while preparing to export products to Europe once the pandemic is controlled.

Hanh said pineapple leaf fiber-based products are expensive and thus not suitable for the domestic market. For example, a knitted hammock is sold for VND4-7 million, a woven handbag for VND1.2-3.5 million, and a bag made from pressed pineapple leaves costs up to tens of millions of dong. Hanh said that in the long run, he and his partners will find ways to sell their products domestically.

Through his business, Hanh and his partners are helping provide sustainable, green, safe and chemical-free fashion. Hanh is pleased that his business can both contribute to protecting the environment and minimizing pollution, and helping thousands of households in his hometown improve their income.

“In the future, I hope to bring more products symbolizing Vietnam to foreign markets,” Hanh confided.

Nguyen Huu Hanh from the central province of Nghe An’s Dien Chau District will always remember September 2021, when pineapple leaf fiber products he and his partners created were first time introduced and welcomed abroad.

Hoang Trinh