The Illinois Agricultural Leadership Program (IALP) Class of 2018 participants completed two weeks of study in Hong Kong, Vietnam, and Taiwan during the International Study Seminar in March. The 11-day seminar included sessions, tours, and site-visits that focused on trade partnership issues, agricultural production, food processing, and consumer preferences in these diverse locations. More than 30 speakers gave presentations to the group during the two-week timeframe.
The class began the seminar in Hong Kong with a briefing by United States Consulate officials, including General Consul Kurt Tong and the Director of the U.S. Agricultural Trade Office in Hong Kong, Alicia Hernandez. Class members then received a financial briefing from Mac El-Omari, the Vice Chairman of Global Investment Banking for J.P. Morgan – Asia Pacific. Mr. El-Omari was accompanied by Grace Ng, Executive Director of Global Research for J.P. Morgan. Discussions centered on Hong Kong’s position in the financial world, with a special focus on multi-national agricultural corporations and their involvement in Asia. The first evening in Hong Kong was spent at the prestigious China Club, with a dinner sponsored in part by The Anderson’s Ethanol Group. There, participants heard from officials focused on Hong Kong business investment and tourism.
Prior to departure from Hong Kong, the class of 2018 toured the Vegetable Marketing Organization, the Tai Kok Tsui Wet Market, and a local supermarket retail store. A driving tour of the Port of Hong Kong was done as the group made its way to the airport for its flight to Hanoi, Vietnam.
The class spent five days in Vietnam, splitting time between Hanoi and Ho Chi Minh City (preferably called Saigon among the local population) and areas surrounding those cities. The time in Vietnam began with briefings led by Deputy Chief of Mission Caryn R. McClelland and Agricultural Attaché Benjamin Petlock at the U.S. Embassy in Hanoi. At that time, class members also heard from an official with the Ministry of Agriculture and Rural Development in Vietnam.
Mr. Chien Tran of the Agricultural Consulting Company (AGS), who represents both the U.S. Grains Council and the U.S. Soybean Export Council in Vietnam, then escorted the group on a number of site-visits around Hanoi. The first stop was at a state-of-the-art chicken slaughter facility owned by C.P. Viet Nam, a major agricultural holding company in Southeast Asia. The class and accompanying travelers ended their first full day in Vietnam at a joint dinner and water-puppet show with Class 8 of the Iowa Corn Leadership Enhancement and Development (I-LEAD) Program.
The remaining time in Hanoi was spent visiting a CP Viet Nam feed mill and a local aquaculture farm featuring an In-Pond Raceway System (IPRS). The class also visited a local vegetable and wet market on the way to the group’s flight to Saigon. The market featured vendors selling produce and meat, with production plots being worked by local farmers adjacent to the marketplace.
In Saigon, group members had opportunities to visit local cultural and historical sites related to the Vietnam War, which is commonly referred to as the “American War” in Vietnam. Participants toured the War Remnants Museum and explored the Cu Chi Tunnels, used by the Vietcong during the conflict. During a group dinner on the first evening in Saigon, the travelers were able to meet and talk with Mr. Gerald Smith, Senior Agricultural Attaché with the U.S. Consulate General of Ho Chi Minh City. Other site-visits, tours, and presentations in and around Saigon included time at the port & mill of Interflour Vietnam Ltd. and Bunge’s Vietnam Agribusiness Holdings.
The class arrived in Taipei City for the final leg of the International Study Seminar, consisting of three busy days in Taiwan. Participants visited the American Institute in Taiwan (AIT) where a briefing on U.S.-Taiwan relations was led by economic and political staff. Mark Petry, Agricultural Section Chief, and Andrew Anderson-Sprecher, Deputy Agricultural Section Chief, then led the agricultural briefing for the AIT. Several officials representing U.S. agricultural organizations in Taiwan also met with the class at that time including Davis Wu of the U.S. Meat Export Federation, Clover Chang of the U.S. Grains Council, and Julian Lin of the U.S. Soybean Export Council. From the AIT, class members went to the Taiwan Council of Agriculture for further country briefings.
The final two days of the International Study Seminar were spent exploring local agriculture and food production in Taiwan. Participants visited a tofu factory, the TTET Union Corporation’s soybean crushing facility, and the World Vegetable Center. Group members also explored local agricultural research via the National Pingtung University of Science and Technology, the Kaohsiung District Agricultural Research and Extension Staging, and the Pingtung Agricultural Biotechnology Park.
The final evening of the International Study Seminar was spent reviewing highlights and educational take-aways of the two-week tour, accompanied by remarks from IALF staff and board members in attendance during a formal group dinner. For more detailed information on the daily activities as written by Class of 2018 participants, please review the previous blog posts at the Illinois Agricultural Leadership Foundation website.
The Illinois Agricultural Leadership Foundation provides a 19-month seminar series that develops knowledgeable and effective leaders to become policy and decision makers for the agricultural industry, in addition to Advanced Leadership Training for program alumni, commodity organizations and other agricultural organizations. It is a non-profit educational corporation under Illinois law. A board of directors, comprised of recognized leaders in agriculture and business, oversees the program. More information is available at www.agleadership.org.