Tom Nguyen's company Viet Nam International Agriculture was founded in 2020. It's base is Vietnam's heart of the coconut industry, Bến Tre province. His family-in-law is originally from this region in Vietnam, where an estimated 80% of people work in the coconut industry. In recent years, many Chinese companies have opened companies and offices in this province, but recently more and more Vietnamese companies are starting up and independently entering this space.
Tom, to the right, and this brother-in-law Truong at the opening of their joined business
"My brother-in-law and I joined forced in 2020 to open our own company. My wife back then already worked for more than 10 years in the coconut production and export industry. My brother now focusses on coconut exports to China. I am looking for international clients. From the start we successfully exported coconut to China. Then we started to introduce other coconut products, like coconut oil, coconut water and goods, so we could scare our business," explains Tom enthusiastically.
The company's main product is dry coconut. Clients can reprocess this product to make milk or other coconut products. The company is also experimenting to export coconut products like bowls and cups. A sustainable solution for single-use items?
"Currently, we are assessing re-processed goods like coconut powder, which is frozen and re-exported to other countries. This is a very versatile product, which can be made into natural sugar and also used for organic skin care products. We are also looking to ship fresh coconut drinks to the Middle-East," continues Tom: "At this moment we do not export a lot of fresh coconut, but we see this market has a lot of potential. Perhaps this year fresh coconut will receive market access to China, this will allow us to enter a huge, nearby, market space."
Bến Tre province is the heart of Vietnams' coconut production industry. It is a region South of Ho Chi Minh city, bordering the ocean, right in the middle of the Mekong Delta. Regarding coconut yields, there is a high season and a low season. The low season is from November until April the following year. In these months, there is less water available used for coconut production.
"During the rainy month, each coconut tree produces ten coconuts per month. During the dry month, this number goes down to five coconuts per month. On average one tree produces 120 coconuts per year," explains Tom.
He believes there are many opportunities for coconuts from Vietnam. Globally coconut production will be decreasing in the coming years. Many of the countries with large coconut plantations face the issue that many of the trees are getting older. The ratio of old trees compared to newly planted trees has become skewed, so in the coming years there will be a dip in supply. Simultaneously global demand for fresh coconut and coconut-related products is growing year-on-year.
"It takes two years for a coconut tree to grow in full production, when is grown it can provide between 100 and 120 coconuts a year. in Vietnam, we have coconut production for the entire year. Currently, there are not many coconut processing and manufacturing facilities in Vietnam. Usually processing is done in the country where the product is imported. We ship many supplies to Thailand and China for further processing, so this is certainly an opportunity for Vietnam to grow in the future."
Another opportunity for the country could be to increase the quality of the fresh coconuts for exports. Organic production is also growing.
For more information:
Viet Nam International Agriculture