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A New Home in Vietnam

Screen Shot 2015-09-30 at 10.07.55 AMI was born in England, a banker for awhile, finally achieving my boyhood dreams by getting my wings. Airplanes and unique opportunities took me many places before I ended up in cotton country – Lubbock, Texas. After an interesting decade of crop dusting, Plains Cotton Growers, Inc. (PCG) hired me.

In my various roles with PCG, I was honored to work with cotton farmers, scientists, Extension personnel, legislators and agribusiness men and women. Those 22 years took me across the High Plains, the great state of Texas and the entire U.S. Cotton Belt. During those times, I built a unique perspective, knowledge and love for cotton. There were many challenges, but with each challenge came opportunity.

Cotton farmers follow one of Steven Covey’s tenets, “Begin with the end in mind.” As they face the challenge of preparing land and planting their chosen cottonseed, they have their eye on the opportunities of the end game.

Cotton organizations like PCG, National Cotton Council, Cotton Incorporated and Cotton Council International (CCI) do the same. Whether it’s the challenge of a new Farm Bill or the opportunity to develop markets for the crop, they are always looking ahead.

Trade missions organized by CCI are invited from around the world to gain an understanding of how the U.S. crop is produced, managed, HVI tested and marketed. Spinners, knitters, weavers and textile end-users of U.S. cotton forge links with cotton producers, developing contacts and friendships that span the supply chain. Through the years I’ve developed friendships with many of the people whom are the links making up the entire cotton supply chain, “from dirt to shirt” or “from genes to jeans.”

One of those friendships started during a CCI/Vietnam Trade Mission tour in 2007. At the far end of the supply chain, my new friend was chairman of the board of management for VINATEX, the Vietnam National Textile and Garment Group, as well as being chairman of VITAS, the Vietnam Textile and Garment Association.

He shared with me his plans for the expansion of Vietnam’s garment industry and its global reach. He also shared his concerns about the gap between yarn production in Vietnam and the cutting and sewing of garments. At that time, there were minimal knitting, weaving and dyeing operations. Most yarn was exported, and materials for the garment industry were imported. We frequently discussed how challenges could be turned into opportunities. An agreement was signed between Texas Cotton Producers and VINATEX/VITAS that aimed at opening doors of opportunity. It was a beginning – the end was in mind – but still over the horizon.

In 2011, my retirement from PCG gave me another unique opportunity. Looking back, I saw I’d changed countries every 31 years. Although I’m proudly British by birth and patriotically American by choice, I made two more major life decisions for change.

First change, I moved to Vietnam. Second change, I married the sweet Saigon lady I had met in 2009.

Vietnam and the Vietnamese people have faced untold challenges over the past 2,000 years. In my view, it’s a country overcoming and moving on from past challenges and grasping the opportunities that the 21st century is bringing.

At last, the Trans Pacific Partnership is possibly becoming visible on the horizon. Its resolution should bring opportunity to all in the supply chain from cotton farmers to consumers. In my new life here, I’m striving to be a link in the chain, a strand in the thread that joins us all together.

– Roger Haldenby, Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam roger@haldenby.com