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Nutrition & knowledge

Released at: 09:00, 21/05/2017

Nutrition & knowledge

Photo: Viet Tuan

Dairy, fruit and vegetables, and now education lie at the heart of the TH Group’s increasing focus on human health and well-being.

by Hai Van

The TH Group has imported nearly 1,300 heads of high-productivity HF cattle from the US, which arrived at Cua Lo Port in north-central Nghe An province on April 12. This is the largest importation by the group to date, with the cattle to be settled at its dairy farm in Nghe An’s Nghia Dan district.

“We imported the high-producing HF cows from the US as a new step in our efforts to improve milk productivity and quality to meet market demand,” said Mr. Tal Cohen, General Director of the TH Milk Food Joint Stock Company. TH has already imported HF cattle from New Zealand on 17 occasions. The farm has 45,000 heads, of which 22,000 are lactating, with an average capacity of over 30 liters per head per day, the highest in Vietnam and ASEAN.

First milk

The TH dairy farm has been in operation since 2009 and the first TH UHT milk was introduced to the market on December 26, 2010, with the brand name TH true MILK. The TH brand is still not as familiar as Vinamilk or Dutch Lady among customers but with a determination to conquer the market the group has continually introduced new products, with 29 types of TH dairy, including UHT milk and TH true YOGURT. It has applied a closed manufacturing process with the most modern technology in the world for dairy farming and fresh milk processing. Cattle and dairy management consultancy services have been provided by Afimilk from Israel and veterinary management from Totally Vets in New Zealand.

The group has also been producing fresh milk since 2013 on a large scale with a modern production line that allowed capacity of 200,000 tons per year in the first phase and 500,000 tons from this year. Five years after launching its first TH true MILK products, the group officially introduced pasteurized TH true MILK, which possesses four advantages: made entirely from pure fresh milk of TH farms; preservative-free; using modern German ESL pasteurization technology; and using modern packaging technology. Because it is processed at low temperatures, TH true MILK retains most natural nutrients, bringing real benefits to people’s health. 

“I want to produce fresh milk with a mother’s heart,” Ms. Thai Huong, Chairwoman of the TH Group, said in explaining why she continually researches the best milk products for children. She also signed a memorandum of understanding (MoU) with representatives from Control Union in the Netherlands to introduce organic fresh milk production under USDA-NOP standards from the US and also European standards. The signing made TH the first enterprise in Vietnam to produce organic fresh milk. Control Union awarded certification for all stages of production, and the group also expects to receive organic certification for closed processing from farm to factory.

The special feature of TH true MILK products is the use of Vietnamese resources for production under European and the US standards. Its efforts have been met with success. Total productivity has reached 132.33 million liters, higher than the 121 million liters recorded in 2015. Revenue in 2016 was VND5.247 trillion ($230.97 million), up 8.5 per cent against 2015.

Expanding into agriculture

Ms. Thai Huong has said that the group will do everything it can for human health and its high-tech project to produce fresh fruit and vegetables is part of fulfilling this promise. The TH Group pursues organic production because it results in clean, safe and healthy products that are truly natural. She decided to expand investment into organic agriculture in concert with the FVF Joint Stock Company, which has produced and supplied fresh fruit and vegetables since 2013. It has also set aside $35 million for development investment to 2020. Its farm and factory sit on a total area of 8,100 ha, of which the farm is 100 ha. This initial investment in fresh agriculture is quite modest, however, compared to its new project producing organic agricultural products. This project in northern Thai Binh province has expected investment of $132 million and an area of 3,000 ha. 

The reason TH Group has boosted its production of organic agriculture is its concern about recent reports of unsafe food in Vietnam. This investment is made difficult by Vietnam’s agriculture sector not being fully developed, however, with farmers preferring traditional methods. Technology in the country is not sufficiently modern compared to developed agriculture countries such as Israel, South Korea, and the US. Most modern equipment is imported and so requires a huge amount of capital. The potential of organic products, though, is substantial. 
After beginning the Thai Binh project, TH group carried out a survey of provinces to build a chain of high-tech agriculture projects in Vietnam’s north. It will cooperate with experts in the organic agriculture sector and international experts from the US, the Netherlands, Israel, and New Zealand in conducting the projects, with a focus on ten types of products: milk products with valuable herbs from Vietnam, such herbs, tea and tea products in a Japanese and imperial style, high nutrition rice, nuts, sesame, Hung Yen longans, durian, avocadoes, and oranges. Moreover, markets for organic agriculture products are expected to open up in Vietnam and around the world in the time to come. 

Conquering new sectors

Along with agricultural projects, Ms. Thai Huong and the TH Group have made a breakthrough in investing in education. The first school within the TH School system was launched on February 15 in Hanoi and will eventually provide kindergarten, primary school, junior high school, high school, college, university, and vocational school studies. This first school covers an area of 20,000 sq m with four levels: kindergarten (17 classes), primary school (25 classes), junior high school (25 classes), and high school (45 classes). The investment capital has not been disclosed at this time.

Ms. Thai Huong said that TH School is a combination of advanced international and Vietnamese education programs. “Vietnamese children will become global citizens and can be successful anywhere, contributing to the country’s development and integration,” she said. She fully understands the emotions parents experience when their children leave Vietnam to study abroad, so hopes to provide local studies and training to ensure the necessary high-quality human resources are available for Vietnam to integrate into the world.

Having launched TH Schools in the context of various international institutions arriving in Vietnam, the group must cope with unavoidable challenges. Ms. Thai Huong said that the most pressing challenge is in policy application. Existing policies for the establishment of international schools in Vietnam state that investors must be foreign individuals or organizations and the proportion of Vietnamese students enrolled is to be no more than 10-20 per cent, depending on the grade, under Decree No.73/2012 / CD-CP. TH School is the first and only school to overcome this “barrier” “There is no reason why only foreigners can introduce international programs in Vietnam,” she insisted.

The next greatest challenge is in curricular, with TH School wishing to combine both A Level - Cambridge and basic Vietnamese subjects like literature and history. The two programs are quite different in organization, structure, and timeline, so the challenge lies in designing suitable lessons. Ms. Thai Huong believes that while she doesn’t have deep expertise she does have various educational experts to call on for support and consultation. It is therefore entirely possible to introduce local studies for Vietnamese students without the need for studying abroad.  

The special feature of TH School is its comprehensive training program. Students will study the Cambridge international program in English from kindergarten to high school, including the IPC program, the IGCSE program, and A Levels. “After graduating from high school, they will receive an A Level certificate, which is recognized internationally,” she said. “This allows them to apply for scholarships at the best institutions in the world.” 

Its Vietnamese studies program, on culture and history, will be designed to provide basic knowledge to students about their country of birth. The investment in education will contribute to addressing “brain drain”, which has proven to be a major issue in recent years. Another strength of TH School is that it provides safe and nutritional meals to students, produced by the group, such as FVF fruit and vegetables, TH true MILK, and TH true YOGURT. 

The TH Group also signed an MoU in March with Israeli partners to implement a high-standard heath project, focusing on the three most important factors in human health: prevention, treatment, and rehabilitation, in three functional blocks. 

The first is a digital hospital and a medical center that diagnoses illnesses early. The center will provide outpatient treatment while the digital hospital connects the center with major medical components inside and outside of the hospital. The highlight of this model is digital medical reports, which allow doctors to fully access a patient’s medical history. 

The second is a five-star general hospital with modern medical equipment and technology. In its first stage the hospital is to have some 300 beds. The third is a center for convalescence and rehabilitation.

“Our main target is social good, followed by profit,” Ms. Thai Huong insisted. She has already proved her business philosophy many times over, through the group’s projects in milk and agriculture production and schooling and its future projects seem certain to be just as beneficial. 

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