Growth in live cattle exports to Vietnam continues to outpace industry expectations, with export volumes expected to reach 150,000 head and even higher this year.
In the past two years Vietnam has risen from being one of Australia’s smallest markets for live cattle to its third largest, driven largely by declining herd sizes in South East Asia and increasing demand for beef throughout the region.
Live cattle exports to Vietnam surged by 1800pc last year, jumping from 3500 head in 2012 to 66,951 head in 2013.
However that growth is showing no signs of slowing with exporters already having shipped close to 40,000 cattle to the market since the start of January.
A delegation of Government and industry representatives led by Northern Territory primary industries minister Willem Westra Van Holthe has been visiting feedlots and abattoirs in and around Ho Chi Minh city this week.
Speaking to Beef Central from Vietnam, Northern Territory Livestock Exporters Association chief executive officer Ben Hindle said Vietnamese importers have been making substantial investments in new infrastructure and handling systems to enable them to import Australian cattle, which has included the construction of several new feedlots and abattoirs.
But even with the considerable expansions that have occurred in accredited supply chains in recent times, the Vietnamese importers say they remain a long way from satisfying demand.
Mr Hindle said Vietnam could take as many as 150,000 cattle or even more this year, and some importers have told the delegation that even greater numbers will be required to satisfy demand in coming years.
On current projections Vietnam appears likely to overtake Israel as Australia's second largest market for live cattle this year, second only to Indonesia which imported 450,000 cattle last year and is expected to take as many as 700,000 this year. Israel imported 98,000 cattle in 2013.
Vietnam has traditionally imported cattle from Thailand but a reduction in the Thai herd has recently prompted the Thai Government to place a ban on cattle exports to protect its own food security.
Mr Hindle said the rise of Vietnam has provided a new level of competition that will help to solidify prices for export cattle in the north and domestic cattle further south.
The delegation led by Mr Van Holthe also includes members of the NT Buffalo Industry Council and will inspect a consignment of NT buffalo recently shipped to Vietnam.
“The recently completed first shipment of buffalo is just the beginning of what we hope will become a sustainable industry for the NT,” Mr Van Holthe said.
“A strong buffalo industry could provide Indigenous employment opportunities in remote parts of the Territory.”