“After seven years of development, I can proudly state that Thai fresh lime now cannot compete with fresh lime in Vietnam,” said the owner of the largest lime plantation in the Mekong Delta.
Born into a poor family, he had to overcome a number of challenges when leaving the central province to study in Ho Chi Minh City. Upon graduation he worked at the Department of Construction for five years before establishing a private construction company.
On a visit to Long An Province, he and his friends decided to buy 20 hectares of isolated farming land along National Highway 2.
“At the time, we planned to build a retreat for us to gather at the weekend. However, eventually, we decided to do something with the land,” he said.
At first, he aimed to plant dragon fruit then gave up when estimating the high cost of investment. He consulted experts for a new planting direction. “They recommended that we plant fresh limes using organic methods to increase the products’ value. Therefore, we applied European processing standards from the beginning, aiming to compete with foreign companies,” he said.
The company has invested about $7 million into the farm and has no plans of stopping. After seven years, this area has turned into a 150-ha lime plantation.
Organic planting methods sound simple but created a lot of difficulties. Approaching a partner who had experiences in exporting goods to EU markets was the first step. To be accepted, they had to send several lime samples to Europe for quality tests.
Another issue was the variability in size and shapes of fresh lime in Vietnam since he was planting organically. Only 30 to 40 per cent of fresh lime from Vietnam qualified to export to Europe.
“We lose a lot of money if we sell the rest at a domestic price. Therefore, we have to come up with ways to process them,” he said.
Besides Europe, his company also export fresh lime from Vietnam to tough markets such as Japan, Germany, France, The US.
“We are passionate about agriculture, so money is not a big deal. At present, we can live well with the profits from selling fresh lime in Vietnam. Of course, we can earn more working in Ho Chi Minh City. However, our mission is to make quality products for the national agriculture sector”, he added.