HARRISONBURG — Local economic development and business representatives met with a Vietnamese delegation Monday to discuss mutually beneficial opportunities.
“Our Valley has a unique economy and unique skills that we would love an opportunity to produce any product that you might find your customers might be interested in,” David Lee, owner of Zion’s Farm in Linville, told four visiting Vietnamese business leaders.
The event was organized by the Vietnamese American Business Council and held at Harrisonburg City Hall.
The council is a nonprofit focused on bringing American and Vietnamese businesses together for export opportunities. The council previously brought the group to Washington, D.C., and plans to visit Nebraska and San Francisco, California, later this week.
Ngyuen Xuan Hung, chairman of coffee and fertilizer company An Thai Group, told the Valley delegation about his company’s intention to sell its instant coffee products through national chains, such as Walmart and Costco.
“Right now, we are looking for an American partner who would like to import our coffee and build a facility in America so we can sell instant coffee in America,” he said in a translated presentation.
Valley business representatives told Hung that there was underused manufacturing and shipping spaces in the area.
Le Duc Thuan, chairman of Bao Ngoc Investment and Producing JSC, also expressed interest in partnering with an American importer for the bread and cake company based in Ha Noi City.
American food technology and processes were a major point of interest for the delegation, which repeatedly asked questions about different aspects of American food production.
Trinh Xuan Muoi, the director of avocado provider Muoi Bo Avocado, was curious to learn more about American techniques in extending shelf life of produce.
However, there are no avocado producers in the Shenandoah Valley because the tree does not grow in Virginia.
Turkey Knob Apple Growers in Timberville has found a way to increase the shelf life of its apples, according to Casey Armstrong, economic development director for Rockingham County, who said he would look into the method for Muoi to see if it would also work for avocados.
The Vietnamese delegation was also curious about how the American protein production system worked, asking questions about technology, best practices and methods to handle poultry and livestock.
The climate of Vietnam is not conducive to raising Angus beef cattle, which Vietnamese customers will pay a premium to acquire.
However, the Vietnamese business leaders were not interested in turkey meat — as turkey is not a mainstay of the diet in Southeast Asia — despite turkey’s status as a cheap, high protein food source.
“The No. 1 thing we can deliver from the Valley is a very, very safe food product,” Lee said.
Though beer and wine partnerships were broached, the Vietnamese delegation said they were mainly interested in whiskey.
Vietnamese men are the world’s top alcohol consumers, according to a 2016 report from the World Health Organization.
No formal agreements came out of the meeting.