“Agriculture is hard work; once on the fourth day of a new lunar year I had to plant trees, but got bitter fruits,” he said while driving in a banana plantation stretching thousands of hectares.
For 10 years his company grew all kinds of trees ranging from passion fruit to grapefruit, but finally found the most suitable one – banana.
It currently has some 10,000 hectares of fruit trees, banana accounting for half of that, and the rest include jackfruit, avocado, durian, mango, and others. It has 2,500 ha under banana in Vietnam, 1,500 ha in Laos and 1,000 ha in Cambodia.
It plans to improve 10,000 ha of land to grow more banana this year.
It also has seven pig farms with a capacity of around 300,000 head a year, and plans to build more with a capacity of one million pigs this year.
Duc said HAGL's debts have decreased from VND36 trillion (US$1.5 billion) to some VND10 trillion, and are expected to be paid off in the next one or two years.
Hoang Anh Gia Lai chairman Doan Nguyen Duc at a banana packaging facility in the Central Highlands province of Gia Lai. Photo by VnExpress/Thi Ha
He expected the company to sell the remaining shares of Hoang Anh Gia Lai Agricultural Joint Stock Company (HAGL Agrico) to get at least VND2.2 trillion this year, and said it could issue more shares to pay off the remaining debt.
“Now I sleep well. The joy of every day is not golfing, playing sports with friends or owning real estate, but watching pigs grow healthily and bananas being exported regularly”.
The biggest difficulty in farming is finding buyers for agricultural products, but he has already found them, he said.
“We sometimes harvest tens of thousands of tons of bananas a month, but sell them all.”
HAGL's bananas grow at an altitude of 800 meters, and so are more tender and fragrant than others, he said.
Ensuring both quality and quantity are two factors that help the company export its bananas to China and other markets, he said.
“Once you have a reputation, you will receive orders as soon as you offer goods and an attractive price”.
During the peak season HAGL exports up to 300 containers of bananas to China. It also ships to Japan and South Korea.
Duc said China consumes 18 million tons of bananas annually, but HAGL and HAGL Agrico's total output is less than one million tons, noting that the former would increase its output this year.
The average price now is VND12,000 per kilogram while the cost is VND6,500, and a hectare fetches profits of VND400 million a year, he said.
Fruits that do not meet quality standards and fetch around VND4,000 per kilogram are not thrown away but fed to pigs.
HAGL's cost of raising pigs is VND35,000 per kilogram, and they fetch VND48,000-50,000 per kilogram. The animals are given herbs if they contract diseases instead of antibiotics.
Normally, for every 25 kilogram of harvested bananas, 12 kilograms are exported, and the rest is used to feed pigs.
“Without the bananas, we cannot raise pigs efficiently,” Duc said.
They are fed to sows and are semi-processed, dried, ground and mixed with vitamins and soybeans to feed pigs raised for meat.
HAGL targets revenues of VND4.82 trillion and profits of VND1.12 trillion this year.
After its expansion, revenues will be in the billions of dollars, Duc added.
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