A closer look at the neglected projects of Vietnam’s coffee titan Trung Nguyen

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One of coffee-giant Trung Nguyen’s five sluggish projects in the Central Highlands province of Dak Lak was licensed more than a decade ago but the country’s top coffee processor has yet to begin work on the project.

One day after the provincial administration issued Wednesday’s ultimatumto Trung Nguyen, Tuoi Tre (Youth) newspaper visited project sites to witness first-hand any action taken by developer.

As part of the ultimatum, Trung Nguyen was given new deadlines to finish the projects, otherwise it will lose its license for all of them, according to the document.

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The largest of the tardy projects is the VND2.12 trillion (US$94.64 million) Suoi Xanh ecotourism and coffee culture-themed area.

The project, spanning 45.45 hectares in the provincial capital of Buon Ma Thuot, received in-principle approval from the provincial administration in September 2009, and was officially licensed in December 2014.

The tourism area is planned to feature a hotel-restaurant complex, a coffee museum, an elephant conservation area, and a dozen other units, but the land plot zoned for the project is now abandoned and divided into three parts, one of which is leased to a nearby restaurant to use as a parking lot.

The second part of the zoned area has been turned into a cassava field, and the remaining area is full of garbage, despite a ‘no littering’ sign at the site.

Le Thi Kim Anh, a local trash collector, said she has heard of the Suoi Xanh projects for years but has never seen any construction work at the site.

“The other day they sent some bulldozers to the land, but left a few days thereafter, so this area remains flooded with garbage,” Anh said.

Nearby locals said Trung Nguyen Group had promised to clear the site and compensate locals who would have to relocate, but site clearance has yet to be carried out.

In 2004 Trung Nguyen Group also won the in-principle approval for a cattle farm cum ecotourism area project in M’Drak District.

“As of August 2015, the developer still failed to complete necessary investment procedures,” the province’s Department of Planning and Investment said.

The 595-hectare project has a registered capital of VND68 billion ($3.04 million), according to the department.

In the meantime, Trung Nguyen is still completing the investment procedure for the Trung Nguyen guesthouse, a VND139 billion ($6.21 million) project in Buon Ma Thuot that was licensed in June 2014.

The developer has also yet to complete investment paperwork to start its VND50 billion ($2.23 million) Dray Sap Thuong and Dray Nur waterfalls ecotourism site in Krong Na, more than five years after the project was given the green-light.

An official from the Department of Planning and Investment told Tuoi Tre on Thursday that Trung Nguyen should be more serious and determined in implementing its projects.

“Authorities and relevant agencies are willing to instruct and help Trung Nguyen to complete investment procedures,” he said.

“But if the deadlines are missed, we have to pull the plugs on the projects to find more capable developers.”

Founded in 1996,Trung Nguyen, which runs Vietnam’s biggest chain of coffee houses, distributes coffee to the UK, the U.S., Russia, Japan, South Korea, and other Southeast Asian countries, it said on its website.

The company said it has exported to 60 countries and boasted more than 13.2 billion cups of Trung Nguyen consumed across the globe as of 2013.

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