US-backed Cargill has been performing effectively in Vietnam for 25 years. Nguyen Ba Luan, Vietnam country president of Cargill, talked with VIR’s Thanh Dat about how the group has been investing in the country, and achieving several milestones spanning across business and community enrichment.
What has been the significance of the investment Cargill has placed in the country dating back to 1995?
|Nguyen Ba Luan, Vietnam country president of Cargill
Cargill was indeed one of the first American companies to come to Vietnam after the normalisation of the relationship between Vietnam and the US, and it set up representative offices in Hanoi and Ho Chi Minh City, recognising the needs and opportunities of the country. Our focus was and continues to be on addressing the local demands for healthy animal nutrition and protein and fostering relationships with farmers by understanding their needs and helping them thrive.
Cargill has invested heavily in Vietnam to grow its business significantly, and today we have around 1,500 employees working across animal nutrition and health, food and beverage ingredients, agricultural supply chain, metals, and animal protein businesses. Besides the investments that helped grow the local economy, we have also demonstrated social tangible benefits through strong local corporate social responsibility initiatives that have further improved the relationship between the two countries.
Cargill has helped enhance diplomacy between the two countries by acting as a mediator between US and Vietnam representatives, and in the feed and feed ingredient sectors by bringing best practices into Vietnam and working through two-way trade issues as they arise.
What are the key achievements that the company has made here over the past 25 years?
Cargill has significantly grown its business in Vietnam through intensive investments. We have seen production expansion with 11 animal nutrition plants across Vietnam; diversified business and product portfolios to meet customers’ growing needs; application and transfer of modern animal and health technologies such as extruded shrimp feed, young animal nutrition, and sow nutrition programmes to increase animal performance; and investment in research and development through the establishment of laboratories and fish/shrimp technical application centres. However, our most important investment is in developing the local talents into a high performing team of around 1,500 people today, and 99 per cent of them are Vietnamese people.
Besides business, we also actively focused on community enrichment. We continue to provide farmer training, actively engage in giving back to the local communities, and provide financial support in times of natural disasters. Cargill has already trained over 1.6 million farmers in the best practice of animal health and nutrition which not only improves animal productivity and health but helps raising farmers’ income.
Cargill is also improving education facilities in rural Vietnam through its employee-led volunteering school building programme. Most recently, Cargill donated over VND1.5 billion (over $65,000) to the Vietnamese government’s COVID-19 relief fund to help the country better fight against the pandemic.
Focus in Asia has been mentioned by Cargill more often in the media. What does this mean to the company and how is it related to the company’s business strategy in Vietnam?
Cargill already has a significant presence in Asia, but we want to grow faster in the region by accelerating our growth efforts across markets. We are looking at increasing our regional footprint and capabilities here to address the needs of this market and better support our customers and consumers in the region.
Vietnam is important to Cargill globally. We have a legacy of making positive contributions in the country, and Vietnam will continue to be a key market for us. 2020 is a special year as we will celebrate our 25th anniversary in Vietnam, and we are very excited about our future prospects here.
We will continue to make meaningful investments in Vietnam – all aimed at helping our customers and the world thrive. We will do that by investing in facilities, talent, and in the communities in which we operate.
Besides business, Cargill is also known in Vietnam for its school building programme. What additional progress has been made with this initiative?
The programme was established in 1997 to support kindergarten and primary students in agricultural communities in rural Vietnam. We are on track towards our goal of building 100 schools in the country by the end of 2020. In July we opened the 96th Cargill Cares school in Vietnam, in the Central Highlands province of Daklak.
We are working on four other schools projects which will be completed and handed over before the year’s end, serving around 700 additional children per year.
All four schools are located in rural and remote areas, where people are earning their living mainly from crop and animal farming, and require adequate education facilities for small children. In most of the cases, their existing facilities are out of date and did not meet the demands from the growing number of children in the areas.