Opting to grow asparagus for its economic potential and health benefits to consumers, a Vietnamese man has turned his Mekong Delta-based plantation into a money printer with the produce exported to Ho Chi Minh City and Phu Quoc Island. International markets are his next targets.
Luong Trung Nghia’s plantation is situated in Binh Thuy Commune, Chau Phu District, Kien Giang Province in the Mekong Delta of Vietnam.
The commune is the perfect ground for growing asparagus due to its appropriate soil type, water sources, and weather conditions.
Binh Thuy is home to one farmers’ co-op and six individual asparagus plantation owners, according to Truong Minh Quyen, chairman of the commune’s Farmers Society.
“To expand our asparagus-growing area, it takes competition on prices and consumption among lots of companies," Quyen said.
"This will encourage farmers to go clean on their plantations, making sure their produce is healthy for consumers."
Aware of the prior successes at certain locations within the commune, Nghia believed asparagus was the right vegetable to invest in.
Nghia came back to his countryside hometown in Kien Giang, leaving behind his tertiary education in business administration and a stable job at a solar energy factory in Ho Chi Minh City.
He leased a three-square-kilometer piece of land and took advantage of the available seedlings from the previous owner to grow his first crop, officially becoming a farmer.
At 28 years old, Nghia started his business idea with a mere VND140 million (US$6,000) as initial funding.
He picked the Atlas asparagus variety for his plantation and drafted out a clear production scheme.
Mobile-controlled drip irrigation was installed, with temperature, humidity, and light sensors in place as well as proper piping.
As a health-conscious farmer, Nghia chose microbial organic fertilizers for his plantation.
He said that an asparagus crop includes six months for growing, three months for harvesting, and three months for revitalizing the plants.
His asparagus plantation, together with several others he invests in, yields 35-40 kilograms of products daily, sometimes reaching 60-70 kilograms.
To help local farmers, he agrees to buy their asparagus for VND45,000 ($1.94) per kilogram, even providing financial support for farmers who lack funding.
Nghia earns an annual net profit of VND70-72 million ($3,000-3,100). However, things were not always a bed of roses for this young man.
In his first endeavor, Nghia targeted Long Xuyen City in neighboring An Giang Province as his potential market, but this miscalculation caused him big losses.
He had to donate a large proportion of his produce to nearby pagodas.
“I thought that the asparagus would sell like hot cakes as it was such a high-quality product, but the merchants in Long Xuyen offered rock-bottom prices,” he said.
Though saddened by the experience, the young man understood that kickstarting a business was a challenge. Instead of staying down in the dumps, he rethought his strategy.
After consulting his friends who had experience in market research, he zeroed in on Ho Chi Minh City and Phu Quoc Island.
“These two markets are potential thanks to their high living standards," he said.
"Ho Chi Minh is obviously so bustling.
"Phu Quoc Island welcomes large influxes of tourists, so the quality of life is on the rise as well."
Nghia acknowledged his carelessness in market research for the first attempt, saying he had learnt his lesson.
“I have my own strength. To stay ahead in the competition, it is either the price or the value added. Therefore I have to keep the quality of my products up, while enhancing customer service and promotions to outlets,” he added.
|A worker harvests asparagus from a plantation owned by 28-year-old Luong Trung Nghia in Kien Giang Province, located in the Mekong Delta of Vietnam. Photo: Dieu Qui / Tuoi Tre|
With his initial failures behind his back, now Nghia enjoys certain success. His family’s income has been boosted and local farmers in his hometown have more earning potential.
He has also inspired many young people in his hometown.
The two markets that he has chosen have a large consumption rate of asparagus, with demands outweighing supplies at times.
Nghia has his sights on contracting hospital kitchens and exporting to Cambodia.
“Medically, asparagus helps to prevent cancer and cardiovascular diseases, aids in respiratory treatment, and enhances immunity. So hospital kitchens are a prospective target, but I’m having problems with paperwork and connections,” he said.
For the time being, he will focus on his marketing strategies. Within three years, he hopes to establish a company and ship his products to Cambodia.
To increase supplies in Binh Thuy Commune, he is experimenting with the American Grande asparagus variety on his newly acquired land plot.
“I hope it will work. It’s hard to say if this new variety is going to be popular. It’s kind of rolling the dice, really,” he joked.
He asserted that a young man has to jump into action, saying that it is the only way to get to know his own capability and whether or not he will succeed.