US embassy cable - 00HOCHIMINHCITY1121

SCIENCE, DETERMINATION, AND CHARITY IMPROVE LIVES IN VIETNAM'S MEKONG DELTA IN BIG AND SMALL WAYS

Identifier: 00HOCHIMINHCITY1121
Wikileaks: View 00HOCHIMINHCITY1121 at Wikileaks.org
Origin: Consulate Ho Chi Minh City
Created: 2000-07-11 04:04:00
Classification: UNCLASSIFIED
Tags: EAGR TBIO PGOV SOCI ENRG EWWT EAID KIPR ETRD VM KDTB
Redacted: This cable was not redacted by Wikileaks.
This record is a partial extract of the original cable. The full text of the original cable is not available.

110404Z Jul 00

2000HOCHI01121 - UNCLASSIFIED
 
 
 
                           UNCLASSIFIED     PTQ4953

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ACTION EAP-00   

INFO  LOG-00   NP-00    AID-00   CEA-01   CG-00    CIAE-00  CTME-00  
      DINT-00  DOEE-00  SRPP-00  DS-00    EB-00    ED-01    EXME-00  
      EUR-00   E-00     UTED-00  FMC-02   VC-00    FRB-00   HHS-01   
      H-01     SSA-01   TEDE-00  INR-00   LOC-01   L-00     VCE-00   
      AC-01    NSAE-00  OES-01   OMB-01   OPIC-01  PA-00    PM-00    
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      NFAT-00  SAS-00     /014W
                  ------------------6C740A  110410Z /38    
FM AMCONSUL HO CHI MINH CITY
TO SECSTATE WASHDC 3371
INFO AMEMBASSY HANOI 
NSC WASHDC
USDOC WASHDC
DEPTTREAS WASHDC
AMCONSUL HONG KONG 
AMEMBASSY BEIJING 
ASEAN COLLECTIVE
USCINCPAC HONOLULU HI//FPA//
SECDEF WASHDC
DIA WASHDC
USDA FAS WASHDC
UNCLAS SECTION 01 OF 07 HO CHI MINH CITY 001121 
 
SIPDIS 
 
STATE ALSO FOR EAP/BCLTV AND EAP/PD 
                       UNCLASSIFIED 
 
PAGE 02        HO CHI  01121  01 OF 07  110409Z 
STATE ALSO FOR EB/IFD/ODF AND EB/TPP/BTA 
STATE ALSO PASS AID/ANE - SOULES, ANDERSON 
STATE ALSO PASS USTR/DAMOND/BALASSA/KLEIN 
STATE ALSO PASS OPIC, EXIM BANK AND TDA 
NSC ALSO FOR RAVIC HUSO 
SECDEF ALSO FOR ISA/EA/LSTERN 
DEPTTREAS ALSO FOR OASIA/AJEWELL 
USDOC ALSO FOR 4431/MAC/AP/OKSA/HPPHO 
USDA FAS FOR FAA/AO/SSAP/HUETE; ITP/ODA/SHEIKH; 
AS/ITP/AAD/DEATON/HUYNH 
 
E.O. 12958: N/A 
TAGS: EAGR, TBIO, PGOV, SOCI, ENRG, EWWT, EAID, KIPR, ETRD, VM, KDTB 
SUBJECT:  SCIENCE, DETERMINATION, AND CHARITY IMPROVE LIVES IN VIETNAM'S MEKONG DELTA IN BIG AND SMALL WAYS 
 
REF:  98 HANOI 3498 (98 HCMC 242) 
 
1. SUMMARY.  IN POOR POCKETS OF THE MEKONG DELTA, AWAY 
FROM THE LIMELIGHT, THERE ARE PEOPLE AND ORGANIZATIONS, 
VIETNAMESE AND FOREIGN, WHO ARE DEDICATED TO IMPROVING 
THEIR OWN AND OTHER'S LIVES.  CONGEN STAFF VISITED 
VIETNAM'S MAIN RICE RESEARCH INSTITUTE, PRIVATE 
ELECTRICITY AND WATER SUPPLIERS, A COCONUT CANDY MAKER WHO 
ENFORCED HER TRADEMARK IN CHINA, SUCCESSFUL COCONUT AND 
DURIAN GROWERS, AND A SPARKLING NEW HOME FOR ORPHANS, 
ABANDONED AND ABUSED CHILDREN IN CAN THO AND BEN TRE 
PROVINCES.  POST OFFERS THE SMALL ECONOMIC AND HUMAN 
INTEREST STORIES IN THIS MESSAGE AS GLIMPSES OF THE SPIRIT 
OF THE VIETNAMESE PEOPLE, WHO WILL WORK WITH THEIR 
                       UNCLASSIFIED 
 
PAGE 03        HO CHI  01121  01 OF 07  110409Z 
GOVERNMENT OR ANYONE ELSE WHO CAN HELP, AND GO AROUND, 
IGNORE, OR CRITICIZE ANYONE WHO CAN'T OR WON'T.  END 
SUMMARY. 
 
RICE RESEARCHERS HELP SKEPTICAL FARMERS, BENEFIT EXPORTERS 
--------------------------------------------- ------------- 
 
2. CONGEN STAFF MET WITH DR. BUI CHI BUU OF THE CUU LONG 
RICE RESEARCH INSTITUTE (CLRRI), STARTED IN 1977 WITH 
BILATERAL AID FROM INDIA.  37 OUT OF 110 STAFF SCIENTISTS 
HAVE ADVANCED DEGREES; CURRENTLY, THREE POSTDOCTORAL 
STUDENTS ARE AT PURDUE, TEXAS TECH, AND TEXAS A&M.  CLRRI 
MISSION OBJECTIVES ARE: 1) TO STUDY RICE AND RICE-BASED 
AGRICULTURAL SYSTEMS IN THE DELTA, WHICH PRODUCES 60 
PERCENT OF VIETNAM'S RICE AND 80 PERCENT OF ITS RICE 
EXPORTS; 2) TO TRAIN EXTENSION WORKERS AND OTHER SKILLED 
WORKERS FOR THE DELTA; AND 3) TO FOSTER INTERNATIONAL 
COLLABORATION.  ADMINISTRATIVELY, CLRRI IS UNDER THE 
MINISTRY OF AGRICULTURE AND RURAL DEVELOPMENT (MARD). 
CLRRI'S ANNUAL BUDGET IS APPROXIMATELY USD 500,000, 
SUPPLEMENTED BY CONTRACT RESEARCH.  ACCORDING TO THE 
MEDIA, PROFITS MADE PRODUCING RICE SEEDLINGS ON CLRRI LAND 
ARE USED TO AUGMENT STAFF SALARIES. 
 
3. IN 1999 THE MEKONG DELTA PRODUCED 16.5 MILLION METRIC 
TONS OF RICE AND HAD AN AVERAGE YIELD OF 4.8 TONS PER 
HECTACRE.  RICE IS GROWN ON 1.7 MILLION HECTARES OF DELTA 
LAND, SOMEWHAT LESS THAN 15 YEARS AGO.  HOWEVER, 
PRODUCTION HAS MORE THAN DOUBLED SINCE THE LATE 1970'S DUE 
TO IMPROVED MULTIPLE CROPPING AND MORE SUITABLE RICE 
VARIETIES, WITH CLRRI PLAYING A KEY ROLE CREATING NEW 
                       UNCLASSIFIED 
 
PAGE 04        HO CHI  01121  01 OF 07  110409Z 
VARIETIES AND TESTING OTHERS.  MOST FARMERS IN THE DELTA 
GROW TWO RICE CROPS, THE MAIN SUMMER-AUTUMN CROP (JUNE TO 
SEPTEMBER) AND THE WINTER-SPRING CROP (NOVEMBER TO 
FEBRUARY).  SOME GROW A THIRD, SPRING-SUMMER CROP (MARCH 
TO JUNE), IF THERE IS SUFFICIENT IRRIGATION.  IN FACT, 
GROWING SEASONS ARE ACUTALLY MORE COMPLICATED, ACCORDING 
TO BUI, AND IT IS SOMETIMES POSSIBLE TO SEE PADDY IN ALL 
GROWTH STAGES AT THE SAME TIME IN THE SAME AREA.  THE 
INPUT COST PER KILOGRAM OF PADDY FOR THE WINTER/SPRING AND 
SPRING/SUMMER CROPS IS VND 800-1,000 (USD 0.06-0.07). 
INPUT COSTS FOR THE SUMMER/AUTUMN CROP OF VND 1,600-1,700 
(USD 0.11-0.12) ARE MUCH HIGHER, BUT SO ARE THE YIELDS. 
BUI SAID CLRRI IN FACT RECOMMENDS PLANTING SOYBEANS 
INSTEAD OF A THIRD RICE CROP TO MAINTAIN SOIL QUALITY, BUT 
FARMERS DON'T FOLLOW ITS ADVICE BECAUSE RICE PRICES ARE 
NORMALLY MUCH HIGHER. 
 
4. CLRRI HAS SUCCESSFULLY PRODUCED HIGH-YIELD VARIETIES. 
HOWEVER, FARMERS TYPICALLY USE SEED FROM THE PREVIOUS CROP 
FOR THE NEXT ONE, AT NO COST, WHICH RESULTS IN SEED 
DEGENERATION.  CLRRI HAS ALSO FOCUSED ON LOWERING INPUT 
COSTS, WHICH IN NOMINAL DONG TERMS HAVE DOUBLED OVER THE 
LAST TEN YEARS.  IN 1999, IT ADAPTED LEAF CHARTS TO REDUCE 
THE USE OF NITROGENOUS FERTILIZERS AND DEVELOPED A RICE 
SEEDER TO CUT SEED COSTS IN HALF OVER THE TRADITIONAL 
BROADCASTING METHOD.  DESPITE CLRRI'S SUCCESSES, BUI SAID 
DELTA RICE FARMERS TREAT ITS RECOMMENDATIONS SKEPTICALLY, 
AND IT WOULD TAKE TWO YEARS FOR THE LEAF CHARTS AND 
SEEDERS TO CATCH ON.  BUI ALSO HOPED FOR THE SUCCESS OF A 
DANISH-FUNDED PROJECT WHICH HAS HELPED INSTALL OVER 5,000 
SMALL RICE DRYERS IN CAN THO AND SOC TRANG PROVINCES. 
ONLY FIVE PERCENT OF DELTA RICE FARMERS USE RICE DRIERS, 
SINCE THE COSTS OF DRYERS ARE NOT SEEN TO BE WORTH THE 
REDUCTION IN SPOILAGE AND INCREASED PRICE FOR HIGHER 
QUALITY.   DELTA RICE FARMERS ONLY EARNED AN AVERAGE OF 
USD 700 PER HOUSEHOLD IN 1999.  THE REAL BENEFICIARIES OF 
CLRRI'S WORK, SAID BUI, HAVE BEEN RICE EXPORTERS, WHO "DO 
NOT INVEST IN ANYTHING." 
 
                       UNCLASSIFIED 
 
PAGE 03        HO CHI  01121  02 OF 07  110410Z 
ELECTRICITY RE-SELLERS CHARGE ABOVE THE LEGAL LIMIT 
--------------------------------------------- ------ 
 
5. THE GVN HAS SET RURAL HOUSEHOLD ELECTRICITY PRICES 
CHARGED BY ELECTRICITY OF VIETNAM (EVN) AT VND 500 (3.6 
CENTS) PER KILOWATT-HOUR (KWH) FOR THE FIRST 100 KWH PER 
MONTH, RISING TO VND 1,397 (10.0 CENTS) FOR CONSUMPTION 
OVER 300 KWH.  IN SEPTEMBER 1999 ONLY 77 PERCENT OF 
VIETNAM'S RURAL DISTRICTS HAD ELECTRICITY.  ALTHOUGH EACH 
OF CAN THO PROVINCE'S SIX DISTRICTS AND CAN THO CITY HAVE 
ELECTRICITY, AT THE END OF 1999 ONLY 68 PERCENT OF 
HOUSEHOLDS WERE HOOKED UP.  CONGEN STAFF MET WITH DO HUU 
TRONG, DIRECTOR OF THE TAN PHU COMMUNE EVN STATION IN 
RURAL CHAU THANH DISTRICT.  EVN'S GRID EXTENDS TO THE MAIN 
VILLAGE IN ALL CHAU THANH'S 13 COMMUNES, BUT NOT TO THE 
NUMEROUS HAMLETS.  IN TAN PHU, CHAU THANH'S MOST WELL-OFF 
COMMUNE, THE PEOPLE'S COMMITTEE INVESTED IN TRANSFORMERS 
AND DISTRIBUTION LINES, AND RE-SELLS ELECTRICITY BOUGHT 
FROM EVN TO 3,000 HOUSEHOLDS AT AN AVERAGE OF VND 1,000 
(7.1 CENTS) PER KWH.  AN AUSTRALIAN INVESTOR HAS DONE A 
FEASIBILITY STUDY TO SUPPLY FIVE TO SEVEN THOUSAND 
HOUSEHOLDS IN ANOTHER COMMUNE IN CHAU THANH AT VND 1,100- 
1,400 (7.9 CENTS TO 10 CENTS) PER KWH. 
 
6. RURAL EVN CUSTOMERS PAY A HOOK-UP CHARGE FROM VND 
800,000 TO 1,200,000 (USD 57 TO USD 86) AND AN AVERAGE 
RATE OF VND 360 (2.6 CENTS) PER KWH.  THE GVN HAS SET A 
CEILING PRICE OF VND 700 (5.0 CENTS) PER KWH FOR RE- 
SELLERS, WHOSE CUSTOMERS DO NOT PAY A HOOK-UP CHARGE.  IN 
PRACTICE, HOWEVER, PRIVATE RE-SELLERS STRIKE AGREEMENTS 
WITH LOCAL GOVERNMENTS TO SELL AT HIGHER THAN THE LEGAL 
                       UNCLASSIFIED 
 
PAGE 04        HO CHI  01121  02 OF 07  110410Z 
RATE, AND SOME LOCAL GOVERNMENTS THEMSELVES, SUCH AS IN 
TAN PHU, ALSO SELL AT A HIGHER RATE.  A GVN SURVEY IN 1998 
SHOWED 39 PERCENT OF RURAL HOUSEHOLDS PAID MORE THAN THE 
LEGAL RATE, WITH PRICES IN SOME LOCALITIES AS HIGH AS 15 
CENTS PER KWH.  TRONG ATTRIBUTED ALLOWING A HIGHER PRICE 
TO "BAD MANAGEMENT."   IN FACT, EVN WAS TRYING TO GET TAN 
PHU TO CUT ITS PRICE, HE SAID, BUT THE RISK WAS THAT THE 
CABLES WOULD BE CUT INSTEAD.  TRONG ALSO SAID THE 
AUSTRALIAN INVESTOR HAD THE SUPPORT OF THE CAN THO 
PEOPLE'S COMMITTEE.  AS ONE ARTICLE ON ELECTRICITY 
DISTRIBUTION IN VIETNAM HAS PUT IT, "THE GOVERNMENT IS 
CAUGHT IN THE USUAL SPOT BETWEEN THE ROCK OF NEEDING TO 
IMPROVE INFRASTRUCTURE AND THE HARD PLACE OF HAVING NO 
MONEY TO DO THE JOB." 
 
7. CONGEN STAFF SPOKE TO A TAN PHU CUSTOMER, WHO SAID 
AFTER SHE STARTED RECEIVING ELECTRICITY IN 1990, BUSINESS 
GOT BETTER AND LIFE BECAME MORE COMFORTABLE.  NOW, SHE CAN 
PRODUCE TWO SETS OF CLOTHES PER DAY IN HER TAILOR SHOP, 
OPENED A KARAOKE ROOM FOR CUSTOMERS, AND HAS ELECTRICAL 
APPLIANCES SUCH AS A WASHING MACHINE, TELEVISION, 
REFRIGERATOR, AND A RICE COOKER.  SHE SAID IN FACT, SHE 
PAID THE RESELLER VND 800 (5.7 CENTS) PER KHW FOR 
ELECTRICITY AND ANOTHER VND 600 (4.3 CENTS) PER KHW FOR 
"MAINTENANCE."  SHE SAID SHE CAREFULLY MONITORED HER 
ELECTRICITY CONSUMPTION; IF THE PRICE OF ELECTRICITY WENT 
UP, SHE'D USE LESS, AND IF IT WENT DOWN, SHE'D USE MORE. 
 
8. IN ANOTHER MODEL FOR RURAL ELECTRIFICATION BEYOND EVN'S 
GRID, 135 HOUSEHOLDS IN TAN PHU ORGANIZED AN ELECTRICITY 
BUYING COOPERATIVE.  THEY BOUGHT THEIR OWN TRANSFORMER AND 
EACH PAID VARYING AMOUNTS TO HOOK-UP DEPENDING ON THEIR 
LOCATION.  INDIVIDUALS PAY AN AVERAGE OF VND 580 (4.1 
CENTS) PER KILOWATT HOUR.  THEIR ACTUAL BILL IS BASED ON 
DISTANCE FROM THE GRID, NOT CONSUMPTION, SINCE THE 
COOPERATIVE'S CONSUMPTION IS METERED AS A GROUP.  IN A 
VARIATION ON THIS MODEL, THE GROUP LEADER INVESTS TO HOOK 
UP PRIVATE CUSTOMERS OUTSIDE THE COOPERATIVE.  THE 
COOPERATIVE LEADER IN TAN PHU BELIEVED THAT PEOPLE IN CHAU 
                       UNCLASSIFIED 
 
PAGE 03        HO CHI  01121  03 OF 07  110730Z 
THANH DISTRICT WHO DO NOT HAVE ELECTRICITY YET WOULD BE 
WILLING TO PAY EVEN TWICE WHAT HIS MEMBERS PAY FOR 
ELECTRICITY OR EVEN HIGHER, "UP TO A CERTAIN PRICE." 
 
PRIVATE WATER SUPPLIER BUMPS UP AGAINST OWN SUCCESS 
--------------------------------------------- ------ 
 
9. EVEN FEWER RURAL VIETNAMESE HOUSEHOLDS HAVE ACCESS TO 
"CLEAN" WATER -- JUST 32 PERCENT ACCORDING TO MARD -- THAN 
TO ELECTRICITY.  AS WITH ELECTRICITY, A LACK OF CAPITAL 
HAS FORCED THE GVN TO ENCOURAGE COOPERATIVES AND PRIVATE 
INVESTMENT.  PRIVATE COMPANIES SUPPLIED WATER TO 4,000 
HOUSEHOLDS IN BEN TRE PROVINCE IN 1999 AND HAD INVESTED 
USD 1.4 MILLION, MORE THAN STATE INVESTMENT IN WATER 
SUPPLY.  VO VAN THUY'S TAN AN PRIVATE COMPANY HAS FOUR 
WATER FILTERING PLANTS IN RURAL BEN TRE AND NEIGHBORING 
VINH LONG PROVINCE.  THUY, WHO HAD MONEY TO INVEST EARNED 
FROM BUYING AND TRANSPORTING LOGS IN CENTRAL VIETNAM, 
FIRST SAW DEMAND FOR WATER AS A BUSINESS OPPORTUNITY IN 
HIS NATIVE VINH LONG IN 1996.  FRIENDS FROM VINH LONG'S 
WATER SUPPLY COMPANY HELPED WITH THE DESIGN. 
 
10. TAN AN'S CUSTOMERS IN TINH THANH COMMUNE OF CHO LACH 
DISTRICT PAY VND 2,500 (18 CENTS) PER CUBIC METER OF WATER 
IF THEY PAY FOR THE CONNECTING PIPELINES TO THEIR HOMES, 
OF VND 3,500 (25 CENTS) PER CUBIC METER IF TAN AN PAYS FOR 
HOOK-UP.  THE BEN TRE WATER SUPPLY COMPANIES CHARGES 
INDIVIDUAL CUSTOMERS VND 2,200 (16 CENTS), BUT CHARGES 
OTHER CUSTOMERS TWO HIGHER PRICES.  TAN AN'S PRICE AND ANY 
CHANGES ARE SUBJECT TO THE APPROVAL OF BEN TRE'S 
DEPARTMENT OF FINANCE.  THE DEPARTMENT AGREED TO TAN AN'S 
                       UNCLASSIFIED 
 
PAGE 04        HO CHI  01121  03 OF 07  110730Z 
HIGHER PRICE FOR INDIVIDUAL CUSTOMERS OVER THE PROTESTS OF 
THE TINH THANH PEOPLE'S COMMITTEE BECAUSE TAN AN HAS TO 
COVER A CORPORATE PROFIT TAX OF 32 PERCENT. 
 
11. THUY SAID HE IS NOT WORRIED ABOUT THE BEN TRE 
GOVERNMENT TAKING OVER HIS CUSTOMERS AS PUBLIC WATER 
SUPPLY EVENTUALLY EXPANDS, BECAUSE IT IS INEFFICIENT.  THE 
TWO 100 CUBIC METER-PER-DAY WATER PLANTS IN CHO LACH 
DISTRICT BUILT BY THE BEN TRE GOVERNMENT COST BETWEEN USD 
14,300 AND USD 17,900 TO BUILD AND WOULD ONLY HAVE COST 
THUY USD 10,700.  (IN FEBRUARY 2000 THE BEN TRE PEOPLE'S 
COMMITTEE SUSPENDED THE BEN TRE WATER SUPPPLY COMPANY'S 
DIRECTOR AND CHIEF ACCOUNTANT FOR, AMONG OTHER THINGS, 
"ILLEGAL COLLECTION AND SPENDING OF USD 100,000.)  THUY'S 
PLANTS, WHICH ONLY REQUIRE ONE WORKER FOUR HOURS PER DAY 
TO OPERATE, BREAK EVEN AFTER 4-5 YEARS AND WILL LAST 30 
YEARS. 
 
12. THUY WANTS TO (###) 
PLANTS.  HE MADE PROPOSALS TO VINH LONG AND TRA VINH 
PROVINCES, BUT BOTH PREFERRED TO WAIT FOR FOREIGN DONORS 
TO FUND MORE EXPENSIVE WATER PLANTS.  (COMMENT:  FOR 
EXAMPLE, A DUTCH-FUNDED WATER SUPPLY AND DRAINAGE SYSTEM 
IN DONG THAP PROVINCE SUPPLYING 10,200 CUBIC METERS OF 
WATER PER DAY COST USD 5.5 MILLION.  END COMMENT.)  THUY 
DOES NOT WANT TO BUILD MORE COMMUNE-LEVEL WATER PLANTS IN 
BEN TRE PROVINCE BECAUSE HE IS ALREADY SERVING THE THREE 
COMMUNES WITH THE STRONGEST DEMAND, AND HE IS CONCERNED 
THAT HIS KNOWN SUCCESS WOULD RESULT IN UNACCEPTABLY HIGH 
LAND LEASE COSTS. 
NOTE:  (##)OMISSION IN PARA 12.  CORRECTION WILL FOLLOW. 
 
 
COCONUT AND DURIAN DREAMS 
------------------------- 
 
13. RIVERINE BEN TRE PROVINCE IS VIETNAM'S COCONUT 
CAPITAL, WITH 30,000 HECTARES AND ANNUAL PRODUCTION OF 200- 
220 MILLION COCONUTS.  TRADERS FROM HCMC AND HANOI 
CONVERGED ON BEN TRE IN 1995 TO BUY UP HAND-MADE COCONUT 
CANDY FOR EXPORT TO CHINA, STIMULATING THE CREATION OF 
                       UNCLASSIFIED 
 
PAGE 03        HO CHI  01121  04 OF 07  110410Z 
MORE THAN 100 SMALL COMPANIES.  PRODUCTION ROSE TO 7 TONS 
PER DAY, THOUSANDS OF WORKERS WERE EMPLOYED, AND THE 
PROVINCE EARNED USD 10 MILLION.  BY 1997, CHINESE 
BUSINESSES IN HAINAN HAD HIRED AWAY SKILLED WORKERS FROM 
BEN TRE AND STARTED MAKING THEIR OWN COCONUT CANDY.  BEN 
TRE'S CANDY EXPORT REVENUES FELL TO USD 300,000.  IN 1999, 
DEMAND FROM CHINA (MOSTLY FOR COCONUT JUICE BUT ALSO FOR 
CANDY) AND THAILAND RAISED THE PRICE OF COCONUTS IN BEN 
TRE TO VND 29,000 (USD 2.07) PER DOZEN.  ALTHOUGH THIS WAS 
GOOD FOR EXPORTERS OF UNPROCESSED AND SEMI-PROCESSED 
COCONUT PRODUCTS -- COCONUT EXPORTS WERE OVER USD 10 
MILLION IN 1999 -- IT FURTHER HARMED THE COCONUT CANDY AND 
OTHER COCONUT PROCESSING INDUSTRIES.  THESE INCLUDE 
COCONUT OIL, CHARCOAL, JUICE, HANDICRAFTS, AND 
CONSTRUCTION MATERIALS.  BY LATE 1999, ONLY 27 CANDY 
MAKERS, 6 OF 33 OIL PRODUCERS, AND 30 OF 55 CHARCOAL 
PRODUCERS WERE STILL OPERATING. 
 
14. CONGEN STAFF CALLED ON MS. PHAM THI TO, WHOSE 
BESPECTACLED IMAGE ADORNS HER BRANDED "BEN TRE COCONUT 
CANDY," FOR WHICH SHE REGISTERED HER TRADEMARK IN 1988. 
ABANDONED BY HER HUSBAND AND LEFT WITH EIGHT YOUNG 
CHILDREN, MS. TO'S FORTUNES BEGAN TO CHANGE IN 1976 WHEN 
SHE LEARNED HOW TO MAKE COCONUT CANDY, IMPROVED THE 
RECIPE, AND MUCH LATER MECHANIZED PRODUCTION.  SINCE THE 
GOVERNMENT STRICTLY CONTROLLED RICE, SUGAR, AND COCONUTS, 
HER MAIN INGREDIENTS, SHE CONDUCTED BUSINESS UNDERGROUND 
AND INTERMITTENTLY FOR 12 YEARS.  BY 1988, WHEN THE GVN 
BEGAN TO IMPLEMENT THE DOI MOI POLICY, MS. TO RECEIVED A 
LOAN FROM THE LOCAL WOMEN'S UNION AND EXPANDED HER 
BUSINESS.  (SHE HAS MOSTLY SELF-FINANCED AND HAS NEVER HAD 
                       UNCLASSIFIED 
 
PAGE 04        HO CHI  01121  04 OF 07  110410Z 
A BANK LOAN.)  OTHER FACTORIES IN BEN TRE AND HAININ ARE 
HER IMITATORS. 
 
15. IT WAS ONE OF MS. TO'S AGENTS WHO INTRODUCED HER CANDY 
TO THE CHINESE MARKET.  WHEN HER SALES TO CHINA DROPPED 
OFF FROM A PEAK OF 400 TONS PER MONTH, MS. TO TRAVELLED TO 
CHINA IN 1998 AND A DISCOVERED ONE HAINAN COMPANY 
IMITATING HER TRADEMARK AND PACKAGING.  (THE CHINESE 
COMPANY DIRECTOR WAS MARRIED TO A VIETNAMESE WOMAN FROM 
BEN TRE, AND THEY HAD HIRED AWAY A TECHNICIAN FROM MS. 
TO.)  TRAVELLING TO CHINA AGAIN, SHE FILED PETITIONS TO 
REGISTER HER TRADEMARK THERE AND TO PROHIBIT ITS MISUSE BY 
HER CHINESE COMPETITOR, CULMINATING IN A SUCCESSFUL 
ENFORCEMENT ACTION AGAINST THE INFRINGER IN 1999. 
ALTHOUGH HER SALES WERE STILL DOWN 80 TONS PER MONTH AND 
HER WORKFORCE DOWN TO 400 FROM A HIGH OF 1,000 WORKERS, 
MS. TO WAS OPTIMISTIC SHE THEY WOULD SOON BE BACK AT THEIR 
1995-1997 LEVELS. 
 
16. MOST COCONUT FARMERS PRODUCE A LOW-YIELD VARIETY 
DESPITE THE AVAILABILITY OF HIGH-YIELD HYBRIDS.  MOST 
SURVIVE ON INCOMES OF LITTLE MORE THAN VND 1.0 MILLION 
(USD 71) PER YEAR, EXTREME POVERTY EVEN BY VIETNAMESE 
STANDARDS.  CONGEN STAFF VISITED MR. DO THANH THUONG, 
DUBBED VIETNAM'S COCONUT KING AFTER WINNING A PRIZE FROM 
THE ASIA PACIFIC COCONUT COUNCIL (APCC) FOR HIS TECHNIQUES 
FOR TRANSPLANTING HYBRID COCONUT TREES DEVELOPED BY THE 
GVN'S VEGETABLE OIL RESEARCH INSTITUTE.  THE PB-121 HYBRID 
HAS HIGHER YIELDS, GREATER FAT CONTENT, AND BEARS FRUIT 
EARLIER.  THUONG DARED TO REPLACE HIS TREES WITH THE 
HYBRID IN 1995 ON HIS 2.5 HECTARES OF LAND AT A TIME WHEN 
HIS NEIGHBORS WERE CUTTING DOWN THEIR TREES BECAUSE OF LOW 
PROFITS.  A 63-YEAR-OLD GRADUATE IN PHYSICS, THUONG 
COMPLAINED THAT ALTHOUGH HE WAS INVITED TO TRAVEL ABROAD 
TO ACCEPT APCC PRIZE, A STATE COMPANY OFFICIAL WAS SENT TO 
COLLECT IT FOR HIM.  COCONUT PRICES HAD DROPPED WAY DOWN 
AGAIN IN 2000 FROM THEIR 1999 PEAK AND WERE NOW VND 13,000 
(93 CENTS) PER DOZEN. 
 
                       UNCLASSIFIED 
 
PAGE 03        HO CHI  01121  05 OF 07  110411Z 
17. EVEN AT THE PEAK, THUONG SAID, COCONUT FARMERS COULD 
NOT EARN AS MUCH AS FROM PLANTING FRUIT TREES, ALTHOUGH 
THE LATTER REQUIRED MORE INVESTMENT AND WAS HARDER WORK. 
COCONUT FARMERS WERE AT THE MERCY OF TRADERS, WHO DIVIDED 
UP THE MARKET AND COLLUDED WITH EACH OTHER, AND WOULD BE 
BETTER OFF IF THEY COULD MARKET THEIR OWN OUTPUT OR SELL 
DIRECTLY TO PROCESSING FACTORIES, HE THOUGHT.  THEIR 
BIGGEST PROBLEM WAS NEVER KNOWING THE CURRENT MARKET 
PRICE.  THE GOVERNMENT HAD NOT BEEN OF ANY USE IN 
PROVIDING PRICE INFORMATION, AND EVEN ITS AGRICULTURAL 
EXTENSION WORKERS LEARNED MORE FROM THE FARMERS THAN 
HELPED THE FARMERS.  THE DONG GO COCONUT RESEARCH CENTER 
IN BEN TRE DID NOT SEEM TO BE DOING MUCH, AND THUONG AND 
HIS NEIGHBORS CONDUCTED THEIR OWN SOIL ANALYSIS FOR 
DIVERSIFICATION INTO OTHER FRUIT CROPS.  (COMMENT:  THE 
DONG GO CENTER IS GROWING 47 STRAINS OF COCONUT WITH 
FUNDING FROM FAO AND UNDP.  END COMMENT.) 
 
18. IN ADDITION TO THE COCONUT KING, BEN TRE IS ALSO HOME 
TO VIETNAM'S DURIAN KING, NGUYEN KHOA CHIEN (NICKNAMED 
CHIN HOA, BEING THE NINTH SON OF HIS PARENTS).  IN 1978, A 
SINGLE DURIAN TREE OF A NEARLY EXTINCT VARIETY REMAINED 
AMONG THE OTHER DURIAN TREES ON THE FAMILY PROPERTY. 
CHIEN SUCCEEDED IN GRAFTING SPRIGS FROM THIS RARE STRAIN 
ONTO OTHER TREES, CREATING THE LOCALLY CHERISHED "FLAT 
SEED DURIAN" OR "CHIN HOA DURIAN," WHICH IS SWEET 
SMELLING, HAS THICK PULP, AND VERY SMALL SEEDS.  HE THEN 
WENT TO WORK ON PLANTING TREES GROWN FROM THIS HYBRID AND 
SELLING SEEDLINGS PRODUCED FROM THE TREES, KEEPING UP TO 
DATE ON CULTIVATION TECHNOLOGY, PROVIDING AFTER-SALES 
TECHNICAL ADVICE, AND OBTAINING GOVERNMENT RECOGNITION OF 
                       UNCLASSIFIED 
 
PAGE 04        HO CHI  01121  05 OF 07  110411Z 
HIS VARIETY.  HIS DURIANS ARE SO POPULAR THAT HE RATIONS 
SALES OF HIS OUTPUT TO FAVORED CUSTOMERS AND COULD GET 
AWAY WITH CHARGING MUCH MORE IF CHOSE. 
 
19. CHIEN'S AFTER-TAX ANNUAL INCOME FROM THE SALES OF 57 
TONS OF DURIAN AND THOUSANDS OF SEEDLINGS IS OVER VND 1.0 
BILLION (USD 714,000), MAKING HIM ONE OF THE RICHEST MEN 
IN THE MEKONG DELTA (CERTAINLY AMONG THOSE WHO HAVE NEVER 
WORKED FOR THE GOVERNMENT).  HIS HOUSE IN CHO LACH 
DISTRICT, HOWEVER, IS ON A NARROW, MUD TRAIL A KILOMETER 
OFF THE MAIN ROAD AND STILL HAS A THATCHED ROOF AND HARD 
MUD FLOOR.  ACCORDING TO CHIEN, VIETNAM'S DURIANS, LIKE 
THAILAND'S, CAN BE EXPORTED, SINCE THEY RIPEN FOR FOUR 
DAYS AFTER HARVESTING AND REMAIN EDIBLE FOR A WEEK AFTER, 
LONGER IF REFRIGERATED AND LONGER STILL IF FROZEN. 
ALTHOUGH MORE FARMERS ARE PLANTING DURIAN CURRENTLY, 
VOLUMES ARE NOT HIGH ENOUGH TO PRODUCE A STEADY SUPPLY FOR 
EXPORT.  DURIAN PRODUCTION IS EXPANDING IN BINH DUONG AND 
BINH PHUOC PROVINCES, WHERE THE LAND IS BETTER AND THE 
SOIL MORE SUITABLE FOR DURIANS.  A COMPANY IN BUON ME 
THUOT IN DAK LAK PROVINCE HAS PLANTED 4,000 TREES USING 
CHIEN'S SEEDS AND PLANS TO EXPORT. 
 
NICEST PLACE IN BEN TRE TOWN IS THE ORPHANAGE 
--------------------------------------------- 
 
20. BEN TRE TOWN, THE CENTER OF BEN TRE PROVINCE, HAS NO 
HOTELS OR RESTAURANTS AT A STANDARD WHICH WOULD APPEAL TO 
FOREIGN VISITORS.  THE PROVINCE, TRULY ONE OF VIETNAM'S 
BACKWATERS, HAS RECEIVED SPECIAL ATTENTION FROM UNDP FOR 
POVERTY ALLEVIATION (REF A).  SO IT SEEMS A BIT ODD THAT 
THE EEM GROUP OF FRANCE, OWNER OF THE SUCCESSFUL VICTORIA 
CHAIN OF HOTELS IN SAPA, CAN THO, CHAU DOC, AND PHAN THIET 
AND UNDER CONSTRUCTION IN HOI AN, HAS BEGUN CONSTRUCTION 
OF A HOTEL IN TOWN.  (THIS IS ONE OF ONLY TWO FOREIGN 
INVESTMENTS IN ALL OF BEN TRE, AND THE OTHER ONE IS NOT 
OPERATING YET, EITHER.  EEM HAS WITHDRAWN FROM PLANS TO 
ALSO BUILD AN ECO-TOURISM ISLAND RESORT IN A MEKONG RIVER 
ESTUARY IN CHAU THANH DISTRICT IN BEN TRE.)  VO VINH BINH, 
                       UNCLASSIFIED 
 
PAGE 03        HO CHI  01121  06 OF 07  110733Z 
DEPUTY DIRECTOR OF EEM'S JOINT VENTURE, EXPLAINED THAT A 
PORTION OF THE HUNDREDS OF FOREIGN TOURISTS WHO TAKE DAY 
TRIPS FROM HCMC TO MY THO IN TIEN GIANG PROVINCE AND CROSS 
INTO BEN TRE PROVINCE WOULD WANT TO STAY OVERNIGHT, SINCE 
THIS IS A TIRING ONE-DAY TRIP.  AS WITH OTHER VICTORIA 
HOTELS, THE LOCAL JOINT VENTURE PARTNER WILL HAVE ITS OWN 
BLOC OF ROOMS IT WILL SELL AT A DISCOUNTED PRICE. 
 
21. IN 10 DIFFERENT CITIES IN VIETNAM, ONE NOTICES GATED 
SPACIOUS COMPOUNDS WITH MODERN BUILDINGS AND SPACIOUS, 
GREEN GROUNDS THAT LOOK DISTINCTLY UN-VIETNAMESE.  THESE 
ARE SOS VILLAGES FOR ABANDONED, ORPHANED AND DESTITUTE 
CHILDREN, FUNDED BY THE AUSTRIAN-BASED, INTERNATIONAL NGO 
SOS-KINDERDORF INTERNATIONAL (S-K).  IN BEN TRE, THE SOS 
VILLAGE, JUST OPENED IN 1999, STANDS OUT EVEN MORE THAN 
USUAL.  ACCORDING TO ITS DIRECTOR, HUYNH CONG BINH, BEN 
TRE WAS IDENTIFIED IN 1995 AS A LOCATION FOR AN SOS 
VILLAGE BY THE S-K REPRESENTATIVE OFFICE IN HANOI AND THE 
GVN BECAUSE OF THE LARGE NUMBER OF ORPHANED, DISABLED, OR 
ABANDONED CHILDREN IN THE PROVINCE, PUT AT 7-8 PERCENT. 
THE VILLAGE CAN ACCOMMODATE 12 "FAMILIES" OF 9-10 CHILDREN 
EACH OF DIFFERENT AGES AND GENDER LIVING IN IMMACULATE 
HOUSES NAMED AFTER FLOWERS.  AFTER THAY ARE FOURTEEN, 
CHILDREN ARE HOUSED SEPARATELY BY GENDER BUT ARE STILL 
PART OF THEIR INDIVIDUAL FAMILIES.  EACH FAMILY IS HEADED 
BY A SINGLE WOMAN WHO MAKES A LONG-TERM COMMITMENT.  AT 
THE BEGINNING OF THE YEAR 2000, THE BEN TRE SOS VILLAGE 
HAD SET UP 9 FAMILIES AND HAD A TOTAL OF 70 CHILDREN. 
 
22. BEN TRE PROVINCE PROVIDED THE LARGE, WELL-LOCATED 45 
HECTARE PLOT OF LAND FOR THE VILLAGE AND FREE MEDICAL CARE 
                       UNCLASSIFIED 
 
PAGE 04        HO CHI  01121  06 OF 07  110733Z 
AND ELEMENTARY SCHOOL EDUCATION FOR THE VILLAGE'S 
CHILDREN.  S-K PROVIDED THE DESIGN FOR THE VILLAGE, FUNDED 
ITS CONSTRUCTION, AND WILL PAY FOR HIGH SCHOOL AND 
UNIVERSITY FEES AND BOOKS, AND FOR JOB SEARCHES UPON 
GRADUATION.  IT WILL ALSO FUND CONSTRUCTION OF A NEW 
ELEMENTARY SCHOOL FOR VILLAGE AND LOCAL CHILDREN. TOTAL 
CONSTRUCTION COSTS ARE NEARLY USD 1.5 MILLION.  OPERATING 
COSTS COME OUT TO JUST OVER USD 20 PER CHILD PER MONTH, 
INCLUDING ADMINISTRATIVE COSTS, AND ARE FUNDED BY 
INTERNATIONAL DONORS.  TYPICALLY, HOUSE MOTHERS HAVE TO 
SCRIMP TO MAKE THEIR FOOD BUDGETS STRETCH AND GROW THEIR 
OWN FRUITS AND VEGETABLES.  AT FIRST, LOCAL RESIDENTS 
BELIEVED THE VILLAGE'S CHILDREN WERE BEING GIVEN MORE 
ADVANTAGES THAN THEIR OWN, BUT THE VILLAGE CONDUCTED 
PUBLIC RELATIONS AND RESIDENTS SAW THAT THE LIVING 
STANDARD INSIDE THE VILLAGE WAS NOT HIGHER THAN (#####) 
CHILDREN'S BACKGROUNDS. 
 
23. THE MOST VULNERABLE CHILDREN IN THE PROVINCE UNDER 
NINE-YEARS-OLD WHO WERE NOT DISABLED OR SICK, WHO WERE 
EITHER ORPHANS, HAD ONE PARENT BUT WERE ABANDONED, OR WHO 
WERE ABUSED, WERE CONSIDERED FOR PLACEMENT IN THE VILLAGE. 
A SURVEY SHOWED 190 CHILDREN MET THESE CONDITIONS, AND 
THOSE WITH THE LEAST ALTERNATIVE SUPPORT WERE SELECTED. 
THE PLACEMENT PROCESS IS ACCORDING TO VIETNAMESE LAW AND 
 
NOTE:  (##)OMISSION IN PARA 22.  CORRECTION WILL FOLLOW. 
 
 
REGULATION AND IS SUBJECT TO JUDICIAL REVIEW IF BLOOD 
RELATIONS DISPUTE THE DECISION.  BINH SAID THE SOS VILLAGE 
WELCOMES VISITS AND DONATIONS, WHICH GO TO THE OPERATING 
BUDGET, FROM ALL GROUPS, AS THE CHILDREN NEED ATTENTION SO 
THEY DO NOT FEEL ABANDONED BY SOCIETY.  CONGEN STAFF FOUND 
THE CHILDREN EXTREMELY POLITE, LOQUACIOUS, AND EAGER TO 
SHOW OFF THEIR NEATLY PUT AWAY TOYS AND ARTWORK AFTER 
BEING INVITED TO DO SO. 
 
JOHN 
 
                       UNCLASSIFIED 
 
 


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