With Gov. Pete Ricketts leading a trade mission to Vietnam in September, the U.S. Grains Council reported in a recent story that the sole ethanol producer in Vietnam is preparing to test U.S. corn as a feedstock with a hammer mill purchased during a mission to the United States in June.

USGC said the mission is part of its ongoing efforts to support Vietnamese government and industry members as they work to increase ethanol use under a national E5 blend mandate.

Nebraska is the nation’s third leading producer of corn and the second leading producer of ethanol in the United States.

Ricketts will be leading a trade mission to Vietnam and Japan from Sept. 3 through 10.

“Vietnam is one of the fastest growing economies in the world,” said Ricketts. “With nearly 100 million people and a growing middle class, Vietnam represents a tremendous opportunity to increase our state’s agricultural exports.”

Ricketts said they are looking forward to returning to Japan to grow trade with “one of our longest-standing and most critical international partners.”

According to USGC, Tung Lam Co. is the only company producing ethanol in Vietnam, using cassava as a primary feedstock. Prices of domestically-produced cassava have increased since early 2018 due to a demand surge from China and other Southeast Asian countries, leaving limited supply available. As a result, Tung Lam has considered converting cassava-based ethanol production to corn-based and began trial production earlier this year.

The hammer mill Tung Lam officials purchased will enable the company to utilize corn as well as cassava in their plant.

According to USGC, the front-end equipment will give Tung Lam the capacity to grind up to 150,000 metric tons (5.9 million bushels) of corn per year at their ethanol plant in Dong Nai.

As the fastest-growing economy in Southeast Asia, USGC said Vietnam’s total gasoline consumption is expected to grow by nearly 15 percent by 2022 as Vietnam’s rising middle class takes advantage of different transportation options with a rapidly-growing number of motor scooters and cars on the road.

To fuel those vehicles, USGC said Vietnam rolled out an E5 ethanol policy on Jan. 1, 2018, with a goal to move to E10 by 2020. Tung Lam is a strong domestic advocate for increasing fuel ethanol blends in Vietnam, which will benefit Vietnamese consumers, the company and potential export demand to fill ethanol needs beyond Tung Lam’s domestic production, according to USGC.

As the only ethanol supplier in Vietnam, Tung Lam’s operation is critical to Vietnam’s E5 implementation and the Council’s ethanol promotion, according to USGC. They said their ability to provide a consistent supply of fuel ethanol to the domestic market will pave the way for increased blend rates and create new demand for corn imports.

That could benefit Nebraska.

“Nebraska-led trade missions open doors and deliver results for farmers, ranchers, and agribusinesses,” said Nebraska Department of Agriculture Director Steve Wellman. “It’s a great opportunity for people in the ag community to tell the story of Nebraska agriculture and to show consumers around the world the quality ag products that we have to offer. I encourage Nebraska agriculture representatives to join us on this upcoming trade mission.”

The itinerary for the upcoming trade mission was developed in cooperation with the Governor’s Office, NDA, the Department of Economic Development, Vietnamese officials, and the U.S. Embassy in Hanoi. U.S. Ambassador Daniel Kritenbrink is a native of Ashland and a graduate of the University of Nebraska–Kearney. The trade delegation is expected to meet with Vietnamese government officials responsible for trade decisions, agricultural officials, and industry leaders currently using Nebraska products.

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I cover business, ag and general reporting for the GI Independent.

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