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Positive future prospects for Vietnamese entrepreneur

Food Security

In the words of Carolina Verhoeven, “Everything has to be in order.” Since 2004 she has been active as a PUM volunteer. As an expert in the preservation of fruit and vegetables, she has visited numerous countries. She was recently in Vietnam where she helped the young businessmen Mr Cuong Minh Le to run his business more efficiently.  

Vinahes processes fruit and spices into fruit juices and dried fruit products, in particular Gac fruit. This spiny, orange fruit is not particularly sweet and has a soft inside. The big advantage of Gac fruit is that its flesh is particularly nutritious and healthy.

As Carolina explained, “Following his graduation, Mr Cuong had acquired little experience as a businessman and faced numerous challenges. In countries like Vietnam, knowledge sharing is not common practice; people are afraid that the competition will run off with their ideas. All the knowledge of processing the products within Mr Cuong's business was in the hands of a few laboratory technicians. Huge volumes of the fruit were purchased but in the end little was processed into finished goods. He had no regular sales market. 

‘Processing all the residual material into new products’ 

Back to basics 

We therefore started from the bottom up, and together with all the staff examined the entire production process. We then recorded the recipes in the computer, partly to ensure a constant supply of a good-quality product. Everything had to be in order, and step by step, we started small-scale production. Whereas in the past 70% (!) of the purchased material was left lying around to rot, purchasing has now been made more efficient and all the residual material is processed into new products. The seeds are turned into oil. The flesh of the Gac fruit is processed into dried snacks, and the skins are sent to a prawn farm as dried and ground colouring. They now use the fruit to make jam, yoghurt, pasta and even sweets. The new products are sold via the local market and the organic food store belonging to Mr Cuong’s wife.  

 

“The thing that has most stuck in my mind following this mission is that Mr Cuong is now more involved in his business and the products he makes. He knows what is going on on the shop floor, because he now takes 10 minutes out of every day to organise a meeting with his staff. They discuss what they did on the previous day, what they plan to do today and where improvements can be made. I left behind six books full of training material, which he has been studying carefully. Every week we are in contact by email or Skype to answer any questions about the teaching material or to give him further advice.  

Demand for healthy, organic products is growing constantly, I predict a positive future for Vinahes and Mr Cuong if he keeps up what he has started.” 

Text: Gabrielle ten Bokkel Huinink

Video: Kim Nagtegaal