“My wife and the neighbours were worried,” he says, “as they did not have confidence in the new grape. Like most other growers in Ninh Thuan province, I had always planted Red Cardinal and, like them, most of my income was from agriculture. But the difference between me and the rest was that wine was my real passion.
“It was why, after many years of small fruits and price uncertainty, at the end of 2000, I began to experiment with scientific and technological methods to enhance the crop. I had become fed up and wanted to try something different.”
It was not just sour grapes - although he had endured plenty of those - but he heard that the Research Institute for Cotton and Agriculture Development had had success in breeding a hybrid green grape they called NH01-48. “I saw that this grape had real quality so came up with the idea of planting it”, he says.
Knowing that I had, experts from the Institute came along to guide me. I had always done grape cultivation manually but their method used biological products instead of insecticides. The Department of Science and Technology and Department of Agriculture and Rural Development also gave valuable help.
After an anxious wait of almost a year, the harvest finally came. The output was about 7 quintals. One kilogram of green grape NH01-48 sold at the garden at VND15,000 which was three times higher than Red Cardinal grape. In the following seasons, the yield of my vineyard increased to 1.2 tons, then 1.5 tons. My net profit was never less than VND10 million each time.
At the time of the Lunar New Year, 2003, and after I was granted the certificate of quality for food hygiene and safety, I decided to get the Ba Moi brand of clean grapes sold at supermarkets in Ho Chi Minh city. To achieve this success, I had spent more than 15 years working hard throughout which I had been determined to stick with the vine.
“Now, the total area of my farm is about two hectares. Fortunately, I get the maximum support from the scientific units so I have the conditions to experiment and create more varieties of grapes for better quality. In 2007, in order to really enhance the reputation of Ninh Thuan grapes, I decided to establish a private enterprise production and trading operation under the Ba Moi brand.”
Mr Ngot has not only boosted his own operation but has improved the livelihoods of all those in the wine industry. He says: “People here say I am a saviour to farmers because, while they were still struggling to find the kind of tree to plant, my vineyard found the answer. Not only that, I have created a prestigious agricultural product that improves the lives of many households in Ninh Hai and Ninh Phuoc provinces.
Understandably proud of his achievements, he adds: “It is an honour that Ba Moi grapes are on supermarket shelves alongside imported products. In addition, I also now have a number of agents in major cities such as Ho Chi Minh city, Ha Noi, Quang Ninh, Da Nang and Nghe An. People can become ‘satellite farmers’ providing grape seeds with standard production and processing facilities for my grapes.
“I also researched, invested to build workshops, installed equipment and machinery to produce grape wine. For raw materials to make wine, I have devoted half a hectare to plant Syrah and Cabernet Sauvignon grapes (both red wines) and Sauvignon Blanc (white wine). All of them must be inspected by food safety authorities before being sold on the market.”
Ba Moi Grape Farm has become an ecological garden site, a fixed destination on the tours of Ninh Thuan. It is a popular attraction to tourists both from inside and outside the country. As Mr Ngot assures, “I never fail to introduce them to the vineyard and winery.” Guests visit to enjoy grapes and drink wine and syrup - which are completely free.
“This is also the place where I receive many students from Hue, Can Tho and Ho Chi Minh City Agro-forestry Universities,” he continues. “They usually come on annual internships, which are the basis for many of them to experiment, complete their research project for Master’s Degrees or PhDs in Agriculture. I feel very happy that these “non-agricultural” activities have created a link to the environment and have led to an exchange of experiences and appreciation of scientific achievements. In particular, the link with tourism has boosted the awareness of the Ba Moi brand in the community.
“I learned from gardeners in the West that this is a common path to success for many other agricultural products. I have been awarded “Excellent Farmers” at all levels from District to Central, “National Gardeners of Creativity” nationwide, “Great Farmer” and “Agriculture Star”. Ba Moi, Phan Rang wine, jam, grape syrup are prestige products in the system of large supermarkets across the country today.”