Introducing higher standards for animal nutrition, Cargill empowers the country’s smallholder farmers and boosts the economy.
In 1995, the United States and Vietnam established full diplomatic relations and, in doing so, helped open the Vietnamese market to Western commerce. Cargill was one of the first American companies to come to Vietnam in 1995, recognizing the needs and opportunities to improve the country’s animal nutrition industry. Juels Carlson, who had helped Cargill transition into other countries like Japan and Russia, set up a one-man office in Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam, in 1995. He focused on addressing animal nutrition problems within the country, fostering relationships with farmers to better understand their needs.
In an uncharted environment, Carlson and the Cargill team identified solutions to suit Vietnamese culture. Before 1995, farmers fed their hogs a traditional diet of rice bran, vegetables and fish scraps. But this feed stunted the growth of hogs, leading to obesity and fatigue. Cargill introduced feed concentrates based on soybean meal, rich in essential proteins, vitamins and minerals that the hogs were lacking. The company updated its soybean meal to a finely ground texture so that farmers could mix it with water—a Vietnamese farming practice passed down for generations.
Since more than 90% of the 18 million hogs produced in Vietnam each year were raised in small groups at farmers’ houses—rather than on large farm operations—Cargill adjusted the size of its feed packaging accordingly. Smaller 2-kg and 5-kg bags of feed were more affordable, and easier to transport on motorcycles. In 1999, with a grant from the U.S. Grains Council, Cargill opened its first permanent feed plant in Vietnam. It served as a training facility to help Vietnamese farmers become more efficient in hog production, while also creating a larger market for US grain products.
In just four years, Cargill’s Vietnam office grew to 250 people, developing sophisticated products and services that would benefit local farmers well into the future. Since 1997, Cargill has conducted local training workshops for over 1.5 million Vietnamese farmers. The company has received multiple awards for its role in the development of the Vietnamese economy, including an award in 2000 from the US State Department recognizing Cargill as “the best US corporation in Vietnam.” Cargill’s presence there has since grown to over 1,100 employees working in animal nutrition and other key industries, such as cocoa, food and beverage ingredients, and grain and oilseeds.