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I-LEAD International Mission: Vietnam

Posted on April 11, 2018 at 3:23 PM by Iowa Corn

         I-LEAD class 8 departed on their international mission to Vietnam and Japan on Friday March 2nd.  After long hours spent in a plane they finally arrived in Ho Chi Min City, Vietnam on Sunday morning March 4th.  Sunday was spent becoming acquainted with Ho Chi Min City and the history that Vietnam has, including visiting a Vietnam War Remnants Museum. 

        Monday morning, we had a briefing from Gerald Smith with the USDA Foreign Agricultural Service (FAS) about how important Vietnam is for US agriculture exports.  We learned that Vietnam buys about $3 billion in US agriculture products every year.  Many are expecting that number to increase as the country’s population is increasing and the citizens are gaining more wealth.  Vietnam recently signed the Trans Pacific Partnership (TPP) without the US, so that will put us at a disadvantage competing with other countries in Vietnam.  After that briefing we went to Interflour port, where grains are imported into Vietnam off of bulk ships.  Vietnam buys about 8 million metric tons of corn and 1.2 million metric tons of DDGS every year.   Infrastructure and handling bulk grain is a challenge in Vietnam, so this facility unloads large Panamax ships and packages them into smaller quantities for farmers to handle.

       Tuesday the class visited an ethanol plant outside of Ho Chi Min.  The plant is set up to run on cassava but can switch to corn if the prices are right.  In 2007 Vietnam passed an E5 ethanol mandate but has been in a trial period until 2018.  Motor bikes are very common in Vietnam and produce more emissions than a typical car.  Blending more ethanol will hopefully help the air pollution.  The class also had dinner with grain buyers from Vietnam.  They were able to discuss the opportunities and challenges the grain buyers face when importing corn.  This was also a good opportunity to answer any questions they had and allow them to put a face to US grain.  During this dinner the class was able to help with a 2,000 mt/month grain deal and answer questions that the buyer had about US product.   That night the class went to a wet market where meat, fish, and produce are sold on the wholesale.  Most families in Vietnam do not own refrigerators, so meat must be bought fresh each day. 

      On Wednesday a fish processor was visited that specializes in frozen fish for export.  This was a great contrast to the fish market from the night before.  At the fish processor, biosecurity was a major concern as well as getting the product frozen as quickly as possible.  The plant is fully vertically integrated by both raising and processing the fish.  After the fish processor the class took a flight to the capital city of Hanoi, which is on the north end of Vietnam.

     Thursday started out with an introduction to Hanoi by visiting the Hanoi Hilton Hotel, which is a prison where POWs were held during the Vietnam War-including John McCain.   We then visited a feed mill owned by Charoen Pokphand Thailand, the biggest feed producer in the world.  CP Vietnam is a fully integrated facility and owns everything from the hybrid seed corn raised for the feed to the grocery mart that the meat is sold at.  Following the visit to the feed mill, the ILEAD class met up with the Illinois Agricultural Leadership Foundation class for dinner and a traditional Vietnamese water puppet show.

     The last day in Vietnam included visiting a fish farm where raceway ponds are used.  This technology allows for more fish to be grown in a given area, increasing the farmer’s production.  Water from the fish farm is then used to fertilize a hydroponics system that grows vegetables for the supermarket.  Our final stop in Vietnam was to Hanoi Agriculture University.  They have about 4,000 students in a wide variety of agriculture majors.  

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