Pork tycoon boosts farming in Bien Hoa

VIETNAM - A heart attack forced Pham Van Khoat to choose a career free of physical labour, so he chose pig farming. Ta Quynh Hoa asks how he made it big.
calendar icon 30 January 2007
clock icon 4 minute read
Pig pointers: Pham Van Khoat (middle) shares his ideas on how to raise pigs with former Prime Minister Vo Van Kiet (second from left) during the latter’s visit to Dong Nai.

More than five decades ago, Pham Van Khoat uprooted his family and made the arduous journey from the North to the Long Binh Ward in the southern city of Bien Hoa. Armed with little more than elbow grease, the now-71-year-old helped turn Long Binh into one of the top pork-producing regions in Viet Nam. Today, it is filled with nearly 500 pig farmers and 130,000 porkers. But it’s beginnings, like Khoat, who is now one of the leading agricultural figures in the country, were humble.

Khoat was born in 1935 in the northern province of Ninh Binh, 90km south of Ha Noi. In 1954, after the Geneva Agreement divided Viet Nam into two parts at the 17th parallel, the newly-married Catholic took his family to Bien Hoa in the south.

The family’s early years in the city were just short of disastrous. Khoat tried several different businesses, but all failed. He didn’t find his calling until 1963, when a heart attack forced him to avoid back-breaking manual labour. After talking with his wife, he decided to try another avenue: raising pigs.

The hard-working couple cobbled together a small flock, including five sows, during their first two years in the pork business. But fate proved to be cruel; a disease swept through their farm and killed all the animals.

Burning with a desire to escape poverty, Khoat was not dissuaded. He tried new technologies to improve the nutritional value of his fodder. It took five more years, but he was rewarded with a farm brimming with 100 healthy and plump pigs.

The king of pig farmers

Khoat however did not keep success for himself. He formed an association called Thanh Binh to spread the word about developments in farming methods. The group had 12 members and nearly 1,000 pigs at the beginning.

"The demand for pork is very high, so I was not afraid of losing market share," he said. "Furthermore, we Vietnamese have a tradition of helping each other. I will be much happier if I can help others to escape from poverty."

The Thanh Binh group continued to grow; in 1990 it was renamed the Dong Nai Feeding Association and boasted 100 farms and 10,000 animals.

In an effort to help local villagers mired in poverty, the group also launched a so-called "pig bank", where farmers were loaned a pregnant sow. The interest rate was three piglets and the breeder became the borrower after one year. The plan helped many farmers, like war veteran Vo Ngoc Ninh. He migrated, empty-handed, to Long Binh from northern Viet Nam and Khoat presented him with a sow and told him how to care for the animal.

Source: VNS

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