Entrepreneur from Belgium sees Xinjiang as land of opportunity

For Belgian entrepreneur Decombel Danny Camiel, 59, Xinjiang is not only a second home but also a treasured place where he can build a successful business career.

Having been bullish about Xinjiang's development prospects as early as the beginning of the 21st century, the Belgian built a chemical fertilizer company in the region's Shawan county in 2006.

"It turned out I was right to start the business in Xinjiang," he says. "I think there is no place other than Xinjiang that could have given me such an opportunity."

Growing up by the sea in Belgium, Camiel never thought he would build a career in China-especially not in the inland region of Xinjiang-until he graduated from a Belgian college where he majored in animal husbandry.

"I had dined at Chinese restaurants with my family several times in my country before I came to China, but I was not used to the spicy food," he says.

In 1988, Camiel began working for a China-America joint venture in the southern Chinese city of Shenzhen. "When I tried Cantonese food for the first time, I was so happy to find it wasn't spicy, and that seafood was also available," he says.

Camiel has since worked in several Chinese coastal provinces, including Guangdong and Fujian, where he was promoted from technician to senior executive. He also met and married his wife, who is from Fujian, and the couple now has a daughter and a son.

In 2005, the company that Camiel worked for was struggling and facing closure, which set him thinking about the future.

"The land area in Belgium, and even Europe, is quite limited and there are few opportunities there," says Camiel, who has long been engaged in the chemical fertilizer market. "But Chinese agriculture still has great potential."

The decision to go to Xinjiang was an easy one, after a customer told him that the region is widely applying drip irrigation technologies, which means there is a huge demand for water-soluble fertilizer.

"I have visited a lot of farmers in northern Xinjiang since 2005, speaking with them about the efficient usage of water-soluble fertilizer. I found they recognized many of my ideas," Camiel says. In 2006, he built a company that produces the specific fertilizer in Shawan county.

Although Camiel's chemical fertilizer business had achieved success in northern Xinjiang, he faced obstacles in expanding the market in the south of the region. "Many farmers in southern Xinjiang had not yet started using drip irrigation technologies when I planned to expand my business in 2011," he says.

He did not expect that the fertilizer, which was suitable for the land in northern Xinjiang, would fail to suit the land in the south due to the complicated soil types there.

"I spent a lot of time in the lab, looking for the best fertilizer formula," he says. His team finally found the best solution after intensive research. Camiel's company now sells 20,000 metric tons of chemical fertilizer each year, and it is used across approximately 10,000 hectares of farmland in the region.

"Camiel loves talking with farmers. He will not offer solutions until he has researched their problems thoroughly," says Li Yang, a sales manager in Camiel's company. "And he feels a sense of accomplishment when he is recognized."

"Big cities don't suit me. I'm comfortable in the countryside with farmers," Camiel says.

He has a new ambition: promoting the Belgian Blue cattle breed in China. "The Belgian Blue is a treasure of our country. I'm very confident since I have seen so much development in China over the years," he says. "I will work until I'm 70 to fulfill this goal."