Yesterday we took full advantage of what time we had left in Vietnam to explore the culture and grow as agriculturalists. Although we only visited one agricultural facility we took a lot from the visit.
Our day began with a visit to the Ba Huan egg processing plant, which included both chicken and duck eggs. To our surprise the company was owned and operated by a female. All of the previous operations had male leaders. She has had 40 years of experience under her belt. Also, her business was one of the first in Vietnam to invest in poultry and egg processing. The meeting room was filled with pictures of company members and certificates, which showed the pride that the leaders had in the operation.
We began the visit with an introductory video of the company, which included the groundbreaking ceremony for the operation’s second location which was just this month! The video showed how the layers were housed and fed, which was all automated. This even included automated manure collection. Although the operation is almost completely vertically integrated, 70% poultry/egg production is contracted out to about 200 farms. Approximately 400 million eggs per year come through the plant and supply a majority of the eggs available in the Vietnam supermarkets. After the introduction video, we toured the processing portion of the operation. We watched the washing, drying, candling, and packaging of the eggs. The chicken and duck eggs were separated into two different lines.
After the tour we were able to ask questions and learn more about the facility and the egg processing industry in Vietnam. In 2003 there was a Bird Flu outbreak in Vietnam which caused drastic drawbacks to the entire industry. In response, the government now supports efforts to prevent and maintain disease control.
Processed eggs are one of ten products in Vietnam that receives subsidy-like support from the government. Through learning from experience, developing markets, and enabling trade, the company has seen opportunities in the egg processing business grow into a very successful operation. The owner expressed her enthusiasm for our interest in Vietnamese agriculture and hoped for more Americans to invest in their markets.
After this tour, the group embarked on a historical journey to the 1960’s and the tragic, war-stricken events that shaped Vietnam, as well as America, in that time period and beyond. Our first stop on this journey was at the Cu Chi tunnel complex, which was an extensive system of underground tunnels used by the Cu Chi people during the Vietnam-American War. This extensive system of tunnels, many of which are a barely 3 feet in diameter
The day ended with dinner on the rooftop of the Rex Hotel. Adel informed us that this was the only hotel in use during the Vietnam War. It was a popular hang-out spot for American troops due to the nice, and safe view. With a Western menu available, the popular meal of the evening included a hamburger and French fries.
Today we expanded our horizons in international agriculture and culture. As mentioned earlier, women leadership at the egg processing facility initially surprised us. After discussions with Adel that woman leadership is actually very common. It is a result of so many men going off and not returning from the Vietnam War. The women were left to lead their households and communities. Our cultural experiences for the day gave us a new set of eyes to view the effects of the Vietnam War.
By: Edward Silva – University of California – Davis and Shasta Sowers – Virginia Tech