Last update 17:03 | 23/03/2017
An American millionaire, known as the Walnut King of Northern California, was extremely excited about the prospect of doing business in Vietnam’s cashew nut industry after a visit to southern Tay Ninh province earlier this year.
His corporation, Sunrise Orchards, signed a cooperative memorandum of understanding with provincial authorities in January.
He recognized that the best investment opportunity was in tropical fruit such as papaya, coconut, mango and guava, but the best of the best was in cashew nuts.
The cashew nut industry is recording the strongest growth in the world among the many different types of nuts on offer.
Figures from the International Nut and Dried Fruit Council Foundation (INC) show that global demand for nuts in general and cashew nuts in particular continues to increase at a stable pace, averaging 10 per cent per year.
This is due to widely-distributed scientific reports noting the health benefits of cashew and other nuts.
Vietnam has been the largest cashew nut exporter in the world for the last eleven years, which is why the American millionaire farmer decided to select the country as the destination for his investment.
In 2016, Vietnam accounted for about 28 per cent of processed raw cashew nut volumes and 42 per cent of the world’s total export volumes.
Vietnam’s cashew nut products are now exported to 90 countries and territories around the world, as international customers recognize them as being of the best quality.
Vietnam exported 348,000 tons of cashew nuts in 2016, bringing in $2.84 billion in export turnover, up 5.6 per cent and 18.4 per cent, respectively, compared to 2015, according to the Ministry of Industry and Trade.
Adding processed products and by-products (cashew shell oil etc.) export turnover reached $3.1 billion; the highest figure on record.
The millionaire farmer, Raj Sharma, secured 40 ha to begin operations in Vietnam, with an initial investment of $1 million, and is expected to rapidly expand its size.
He expects to soon start cashew exports from Vietnam to the US and other Asian markets.
India lost the tag of world’s largest cashew nut exporter to Vietnam in 2006, which still possesses advantages in cashew growing areas, cheap costs, and highly-skilled workers compared to India, Nigeria and the Ivory Coast. Meanwhile, the possibility of growing areas increasing in Vietnam’s rivals is low.
In particular, the Vietnamese Government has encouraged attracting investment in the industry and also offers political stability.
“Vietnam has a large population, nearing 100 million people, which will be a consumption market in the future for other countries,” said Mr. Nguyen Duc Thanh, Chairman of the Vietnam Cashew Association (Vinacas).
“The country is the best destination for processing cashew kernels for foreign investors wishing to invest in the industry.”
The Ministry of Agriculture and Rural Development expects the cashew nut industry to quickly increase productivity in order to ease its dependence on imports.
The country has been dependent on raw cashew nuts, mostly from Cambodia and Africa, especially the Ivory Coast, for many years.
Enterprises in the industry have been encouraged to restructure their models and upgrade facilities to international standards.
Cashew nut processors have operated with local mechanical engineering enterprises to build Made-in-Vietnam machinery and equipment used in different stages of the production process, rather importing them from China, Italy and India at high cost.
Many enterprises in India, which also has modern cashew nut processing technology, and African countries are interested in Vietnam’s cashew processing technology, Mr. Thanh from Vinacas said, and many machines have already been exported.
“Vietnam dominates cashew kernel processing technology in the world,” he said.
Cashew nut exports
Source: International Nut and Dried Fruit Council, 2016
With such advantages, many foreign enterprises in Singapore, the US, and India have come to Vietnam in recent years and invested in the cashew industry.
Olam International, a leading global supply chain manager and processor of agricultural products, arrived in Vietnam in 2000 and now has processing factories in the central and southern regions.
Olam Vietnam is the largest exporter of cashew nuts, with export revenue in 2016 of $287.7 million.
Rals International Vietnam Co., an Indian-invested company and one of the Top 10 largest exporters, recorded $41.9 million in cashew kernel export revenue last year.
Though the number of foreign enterprises in the industry is small, Mr. Thanh said, their export revenue is substantial.
“I believe that the industry will no longer have any small businesses by 2020, as cashew processing factories will be operated in accordance with international standards to ensure quality and safety,” he said.
Among the ten largest cashew kernel exporters in 2016, the Tan Hoa Co. has invested in modern technology for its production line to meet customer requirements.
Turnover in 2016 totaled $33.2 million, from major customers in the EU and China, according to CEO Mr. Nguyen Quoc Nhu.
CEO of the Long Son JSC, Mr. Vu Thai Son, told VET that the company focused on upgrading their factories and enhancing machinery and equipment last year to ensure a clean working environment, as required by customers in the US and the EU.
“Purchase prices are good,” he said.
“I expect export growth in 2017 of 10 per cent.”
The company recorded $128.6 million in revenue in 2016, making it the second-largest exporter in the industry.
Last year and in 2015 it repurchased five cashew nut enterprises and plans for three of them to begin operations this year and the remaining two in 2018.
Many enterprises in southern Binh Phuoc province spent tens of millions of dollars in building new processing factories and purchasing modern technology in 2016, according to Ms. Dao Thi Lanh, Vice Chairwoman of the Binh Phuoc Cashew Association.
Some paid attention to deep processing, though such investments remain limited.
The province, known as the center of the cashew nut processing industry, accounts for 50 per cent of volumes in Vietnam.
Ms. Lanh added that cashew kernels are a key product of provincial enterprises, so expanding the scale of production and processing will continue into the future.
Binh Phuoc now has 134,000 ha of cashew nut trees, which yield 190,000 tons annually, with an average productivity of 1.4 tons per ha, while the Ivory Coast produces about 700,000 tons of raw cashew per year with annual productivity of 400-700 kg per hectare.
Early this year, the Dan On Foods Corporation began construction of a cashew nut processing factory with a total capacity of 36,000 tons per year at the My Phuoc 3 Industrial Park in southern Binh Duong province.
The subsidiary of the Canada-based Dan D Pack Group, specializing in processing products from nuts, invested $35 million in building the 60,000 sq m factory divided into three phases.
Each phase is expected to have an estimated capacity of 10,000-15,000 tons per year when put into operation.
The company owns two cashew processing plants, in Thu Dau Mot town and An Dien commune, Ben Cat district, in Binh Duong.
Mr. Thanh from Vinacas said that 2017 will be a favorable year for cashew nut production and business. Exports of 360,000 tons of cashew kernels worth $3 billion are expected this year.
With positive forecasts for the industry, Mr. Son from the Long Son JSC believes his company will earn $200 million in export revenue and gain higher growth once its deal selling 30 per cent of shares to a foreign partner is finalized this year.
Returning to the millionaire farmer and his belief in the prospects of doing business in Vietnam cashew nut industry, Mr. Sharma is expected to not only export cashew nuts from Vietnam to California in particular and the US in general, he will also seek opportunities in China and other Asian markets.
He now has sales offices in Vietnam, joining three offices in India and one in Hong Kong.
“With advantages in consumption markets, production and processing, China will be Vietnam’s main rival in the cashew nut industry. But it will be a challenge for China to compete with Vietnam, as it holds advantages in cashew processing technology. Vietnam has many opportunities for attracting foreign investment in the cashew nut processing industry.”
VN Economic Times