Nguyen Tien Hung is a cassava flour producer in the Long Bien District of North Hanoi, Vietnam. 20 years ago, as the economy in Vietnam collapsed in a post-war crackdown on remnants of capitalism in the South of the country; Tien Hung was struggling to earn a living working for a public company. He saw an opportunity in producing cassava flour, realising there was a ready market with ready buyers, and he hasn't looked back since.
Tien Hung now has 3 children, and including his grandparents his cassava flour production supports a household of 7 people.
He buys dried cassava chips from suppliers mostly in the mountainous areas of north-west Vietnam, and mills the chips in his factory to make flour. Cassava chips need to be dried as soon as possible after harvesting to retain the quality, but they can then be stored for several weeks before milling enabling production to take place all year round. Tien Hung pays attention to the quality of the chips, to make sure they meet certain quality of hygiene and starch content.
Tien Hung then mainly sells his milled flour to wood making manufacturers to use as a glue in the paperboard process, but also to the food industry (eg. a coating for fried shallots), to locals for use in traditional cakes, and to animal feed producers.
Cassava starch/flour can be used for many different things. If the quality is right, it can replace wheat and maize in bread and bakery products. A slightly simpler product is also used as a binding agent by plywood manufacturers. Tien Hung produces the flour in a hygienic environment and sells it on to different industries that make those end products.
He says: "Demand for cassava flour is increasing, although the price has seasonal variation. I intend to remain in cassava flour production, and even to expand the business when my children have grown up".
The School of Biotechnology and Food Technology at the Hanoi University of Science and Technology, as part of the Gratitude project are working with Tien Hung to understand the cassava value chain in Vietnam in order to ensure that technologies developed by the project concerning waste products and ways of reducing loss are commercially viable for the key actors.