Monday, March 14th, 2016
We started the day with a meeting at Syngenta’s office in Manila, Philippines. They had several presentations and talked with us about what they do in Malaysia, how GMO rulings have affected the business and what The Syngenta Connections Program looks like. Students from several countries participate and spend time in more developed nations, experiencing things like precision planting, specific plant breeding genetics, and other advanced technologies.
Here’s a map that includes average yields, number of seasons, moisture type and technology involved:
They spent time talking about their goals and purpose and how their company has helped improve yields across the country, the variation of soils and climates and the challenges they face in developing seeds that will produce in different climates and soil types.
After our meetings with Syngenta, we flew out of Manila to Kuala Lumpur (KL), Malaysia—just shy of a 4 hour flight. We met our tour bus at the airport and were taken to a restaurant called Neo Tamarind—where they’re known for their lemon grass flavors. We were served an excellent meal and had a chance to reflect on our time in the Philippines.
Tuesday, March 15th, 2016
On Tuesday morning we met Joanie with the Foreign Agricultural Service(FAS) and also, with the Federation of Livestock Farmers Associations of Malaysia. We talked about Halal methods, trade policies and the future of agriculture. It was interesting to hear about the future expansions of chicken farms and how modernization will help production with a shift from open air to closed, controlled climates in such a warm/humid climate.
USMEF-ASEAN representative, Sabrina Yin, spent the day with us. She talked about the differences between the open trade of Malaysia and the tariffs on imports of the Philippines. She also talked with us about how they promote the US meat and grains markets by using slogans such as U.S. Beef Me Up, Grain Fed to Tenderness (beef), Grain Fed to Perfection (pork), etc. Sabrina talked about how the U.S. can differentiate our meat products and offer high-end cuts into the markets in SE Asia. As a former chef, she can personally speak to the high quality of U.S. meats.
We then traveled to Westports, where we were shown a video of their procedures before we were taken out to tour their operation.
Westports is the 13th largest port in the world.
They’re putting in cranes that can handle the next generation of container ships—ones that can handle 19.4 TEU’s.
Westports also transloads freight. They have been able to create a value-added system—taking things like Chinese phones, adding a cover and putting a sticker on it saying, Made in Malaysia. Countries with embargoes on Chinese products will take the Chinese phones, now marked as Malaysian.
After meeting with Westports, we met The Italian Baker Berhad, a Massimo company. They produce bread, sweet cakes (Chiffon cakes) and cream filled bread.
For one of their product lines, they use U.S. hot dog bun baking technology and then fill the buns with flavored sweet creams. Pictured below, sweet corn flavored sweet cream, buns.
After walking through an amazing smelling facility at The Italian Baker, we then met with Federal Flour Mills (FFM). We walked through the storage and processing facilities with Edward Lee, their grain buyer. He provided a lot of insight into what the company looks for in their products and how they process their grains. A very small percentage is sold directly to local farmers for feed.
Later that night, we visited a high-end supermarket with non-Halal sections; pork and alcohol had their own counters in each section so that Muslim patrons wouldn’t have to come in contact with such ingredients. One of the most interesting products we saw in this store was Baconette Strips (“no meat goodness”).
We got up early to visit the largest wet market in KL. The pictures don’t do it justice… you had to be there to take in the sights, sounds and most importantly, the smells.
There was freshly butchered chicken, duck, pork, beef, etc. The vegetables and fruits were very fresh as well. Our guide said it was the largest wet market in KL and the prices are much less than what you’d find in a grocery store, and the products are more fresh. The sweet corn farm we visited the same day, said that most of his sweet corn (90%) is sold in a wet market.
When we finished the visit of MPOB, we hopped in a bus to visit a sweet corn farmer—where the crop is planted by hand. They also remove the tassels and corn silks by hand to help them manage pests. There they utilized Monsanto genetics on about 400 acres, while they worked to transition to an organic crop. They used chicken litter and fermented shrimps as compost and fertilizer. The farm also grows several fruits including papaya, calamansi (tastes like a tart lemon/lime and pictured below), and jack fruit (we had these dried and it tasted like an apple, pineapple, mango combination) as complements to their sweet corn operation.
We finished the night off with an industry dinner and met several interesting people-- from traders to veterinarians. In these personal conversations we had time to learn about how Americans are perceived and what they thought we should know about their culture. This was a great way to end the evening and gain a better perspective on thoughts of local ag professionals.