Interview with Mr Nguyen Duc Thanh - Part 2
Although you had a lot of experience with exported products, did you have any challenges or difficulties when you started with cashews? Can you tell us a bit more?
Of course. Lang agreed and told me the total cost would be 2.85 billion VND, including 285 mil VND of the technology transfer fee. I decided to sign off the contract despite having no ideas how to get funded. Back in 1984, when I came to work as a manager in the company, the total assets were just a La Dalat valued at 16,000 VND with 1,200 square meters of land full of mud and 200 square meters of factory with fibre cement roof (originally a sugar cane factory belonged to Mr Sau Son). Till 1989, total assets value was just above 1bil VND. However, I tried to raise the fund by many ways, including borrowing money with a shocking interest rate of 2.5% per month. This was to build up a factory which hopefully would feed more than 300 employees.
I signed off the contract, assigned 32 employees to come to study the technology and machine operation in Thu Duc district. At the same time, I asked People Committee of Long An province to support me with financial resource and land. Fortunately, in that year, Cajeput Oil Factory of Long An made a loss. So the province government intended to put the factory under the management of UNIMEX-Long An. Mr Nam Nghi, Director of UNIMEX-LA at the time, called me up and said: ”I leave the cajeput oil factory to you, to build up the cashew factory. But you have to promise that this cashew business must be profitable”.
I agreed but the factory was too small. I had to buy another 2,000m2 of land from Mr Le Van Truong to have 12,000 square meters of land. Then it was enough for a factory with processing capacity of 3,000 tonnes per year. The whole construction included a drying yard, warehouse, factory, office block and secondary facilities. It took only 6 months to get the formalities, development, installing machinery and equipment done. In the 1 quarter of 1990, when the Vietnamese cashew crop commenced, we officially put the factory into operation.
A while after this, when the Government considered to equitize enterprises, the Major of Long An – Mr Ba Tinh – called me up and gave me the task of putting my company into a pilot project. January 1996, my company officially turned into a joint stock company named “Long An Food Processing Import Export Co” (LAFOOCO). Then the Board allocated me into the position of Chairman and Director. This was the first cashew processor and exporter in Long An. Then, we transferred technology and opened many other factories in Binh Phuoc, Binh Duong, Dong Nai…From 2000 to 2010, there were around 30 cashew factories only in Long An. Long An is the leader in the industry in term of export turnover. Then, we LAFOOCO became a public company and well-known until now.