Khmer Billionaire Lam Se Highlights Success of Straw Business

Lam Se, a Khmer billionaire, has achieved his wealth status with an annual income of 1 billion VND. This successful rice farmer has revealed that his secret to success is a special straw business.


Making Money from Straw

Khmer Billionaire Lam Se Shares Success of Straw Business
Rice farmer Lam Se in the straw roll storage for Tra Vinh traders (Photo: TD).

Lam Se, a 64-year-old farmer from Soc Trang, is known as the “Khmer billionaire” due to his impressive property. His warehouse spans a massive 800m2 and his house is a spacious 150m2. If you visit Som Rong temple in Soc Trang and ask about Lam Se, the locals will tell you about a man with determined eyes and dark skin, passionate about his family farm.

Lam Se told a reporter that in 1987, after getting married, he and his wife lived apart and worked hard to save up enough money to purchase 10 plots of land. To make ends meet, they drove motorbike taxis and then used all the money they earned from selling rice to purchase more land in addition to farming.

However, in 2017, Lam Se and his family made a significant decision to change their income. He encountered a trader from Tra Vinh at the fields who was buying straws for VND 30,000 per roll. Upon inquiry of the quantity being purchased, the trader said that they would buy an unlimited amount to use as raw materials for mushroom farming, as fodder for livestock, and as fertilizer. Fascinated by this business, Lam Se rode for 60km to Tra Vinh to follow the straw collection truck and gain more information regarding the purchasing method, quantity, price, and other transaction issues.

That’s how his straw business began. Lam Se was able to purchase the first straw-rolling machine in Soc Trang for 300 million VND (around US $12,700) thanks to Decree 68 of the Government, which provided an interest-free loan. Lam Se immediately began to educate local people not to burn straws, but to sell them to him at a high price instead. Additionally, Lam Se collaborated with purchasing units to ensure a steady supply.

Khmer Billionaire Lam Se Shares Success of Straw Business
Lam Se’s large warehouse about 800m2

After seeing high profits and quick capital recovery from his business, Lam Se brought three more straw rolling machines to the Soc Trang market in 2019. By 2022, his family had a total of six machines worth nearly VND 2 billion. To ensure that the straws remained in good condition until the rainy season, when they could be sold at a higher price, he also built four warehouses with over 2,000 meters square. With the six machines, Lam Se can collect around 3,000 straw rolls per day throughout Soc Trang province. At the current selling price of VND 25,000-28,000 per roll, he is able to make a profit of up to 50% per roll. Moreover, he has created twelve jobs for local people, providing them with stable incomes.

San Loi, a local farmer from Khmer, expressed his gratitude to Lam Se, saying, “Thanks to Lam Se, I now have more jobs and my daily income has increased to VND 500,000. I now make around VND 10 million per month.”

Khmer Billionaire Lam Se Shares Success of Straw Business
(Photo: TD).

Model of Successful Agricultural Business

Lam Se said that his family’s currently has three main sources of income – farming, combine harvester service rental, and trading in a straw roll. He has 8 hectares of rice fields and harvests 2 to 3 crops per year.

“Every year, I make a total of VND 300 million when I plant three rice crops, and VND 200 million when I plant two. With two combined harvesters, my family earns between VND 400-500 million. Each straw rolling machine produces 1,000. For the future, I am planning to invest more in car rental services,” said Lam Se.

In addition to being a good businessman, Lam Se and his family often participates in local movements and actively contribute to the local funds, enthusiastically share business experiences, and give others plants, seeds, and fertilizers. During the pandemic, Lam Se supported the villagers with 20-30 kg of rice/household and gave funeral support to the elders of families who are in difficult circumstances.

For many years, Lam Se has been recognized as an exemplary farmer in production and business at the provincial level, and was awarded the Certificate of Merit by the Prime Minister for his exemplary achievement in the national movement of “Good Agriculture Production and Business to Help Each Other Become Rich and Reduce Poverty Sustainably”.

Vietnam Times Reporters