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Young Entrepreneurs in the Food Processing Industry
Uy Cheng Heng (right) with his sister Uy Sothearina (left) presenting the company’s products.
Mr. Uy Cheng Heng is a 28-year-old entrepreneur born in Battambang province who is blazing a path forward for Cambodia’s small, but quickly growing food processing industry. He and his sister, Uy Sothearina, established a small enterprise in November 2020 and registered it less than a year later as Navita Healthy Food & Beverages Co., Ltd. To produce its healthy dried fruit, Navita sources natural, fresh fruit from local farmers, processing it into dried dragon fruit, dried mango, dried pineapple, and two recently introduced products – dried longan and longan in syrup.USAID’s Abt-ledFeed the Future Cambodia Harvest II began working with Navita in December 2020, helping the company develop and improve its products, linking it with new business partners and markets, and improving its processing capacity.
Learning by Example
In January 2021, Heng joined 12 other longan actors - including suppliers, processors, and exporters - in an Abt-led tour of a longan processing facility to help actors improve competitiveness, expand market linkages, and promote a better understanding of market requirements in terms of quality, quantity, and other specifications. The visit allowed Heng and Sothearina to learn more about processing techniques, post-harvest handling, and product packaging and branding, ultimately improving Navita’s production standards, value-addition, and supply chain management.
Improving Business Capacity
As a new entrepreneur, Heng knew he had a lot to learn. In addition to participating in the facility tour, he and his sister attended many trainings conducted by Abt featuring fruit processing techniques, product development, international trade and logistics, and food safety training. Through these trainings, Heng learned how to improve his current products and develop new ones. Courses also covered food safety practices such as Good Hygiene Practices (GHP), Good Manufacturing Practices (GMP), and Hazard Analysis and the implementation of Critical Control Point (HACCP) systems. He also learned how to conduct business and connect with international buyers, coordinate logistics and cross-country payment transactions, and meet buyers’ requirements.
New Business Partnerships & Promotional Campaigns
Harvest II introduced Navita to the managers of several local markets in Phnom Penh such as Aliments, Snadai Me, AgroNature, Karot, and KCCV’s safe food mart. These markets have agreed to sell Navita’s products. Harvest II also connected Navita with the online app Khmum eShop so the company could enter the digital market. To promote brand awareness, Heng launched a promotional campaign through Navita’s Facebook page, offering discounts and giveaways. He also conducted product testing and marketing in several markets in Phnom Penh and Battambang. In September 2021, Navita achieved almost $80,000 USD in sales.
Navita’s products are displayed in several markets in Phnom Penh during their promotional campaign.
Connecting to Export Markets
Abt helped Navita send product samples to overseas buyers in Australia, England, and Japan. The Australia product testing proved to be successful, and the buyer has ordered more products from Navita to supply its retail markets in Australia; Navita is awaiting feedback from the buyers in England and Japan.
For the last couple of months, Navita has also participated in a program “Export Mission to the Middle East and North Africa,” hosted by Cambodia Pepper and Spices Federation (CPSF) in collaboration with Harvest II. This program aims to provide assistance and expertise to Cambodian businesses and establish exports to the Middle East and North Africa (MENA) region. The program helped Heng develop a company profile and product catalog to display as part of the September 28-29 Organic and Natural Digital Expo sponsored by the United Arab Emirates’ Ministry of Climate Change and Environment. The program will also provide additional training on food safety, assistance developing an export action plan, and linkages to reliable export certificate and logistics service providers.
Heng and Sothearina plan to export their products to Japan, South Korea, and other EU markets but, due to COVID, the discussions have been placed on hold. In the meantime, they are expanding in the Cambodian market and plan to add more products, such as dried papaya, dried cherry tomatoes, pumpkin powder, and tomato powder. Heng is a young entrepreneur with big dreams and a strong drive to introduce Cambodian products to international markets and help create jobs for Cambodians. He shares this message for young people like him: “Don’t give up on your dreams, even if you are young and have no experience. If you know who you are and try your best, success is not far away.”
Abt and Harvest II will continue to partner with young entrepreneurs—like this brother and sister team—who are building their skills and creating more value in Cambodia’s agriculture sector.
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