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vietnam-full.jpg USDA - FAS

Trade mission heads to Vietnam, Thailand

Dairy, meat products and corn all could offer potential opportunities for growth in region.

U.S. Department of Agriculture undersecretary for trade and foreign agricultural affairs Ted McKinney is scheduled to lead a USDA trade mission to Vietnam Oct. 15-18, accompanied by nearly 80 industry and government representatives seeking to expand agricultural exports to one of the fastest-growing regions of the world. The mission will be based in Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam, and will also include buyer delegations from Thailand and Burma (Myanmar).

Vietnam is the seventh-largest destination for U.S. agricultural products. The top five global exports of consumer-oriented products to Vietnam include fresh and processed vegetables, beef and beef products, fresh fruits, tree nuts and food preparations and miscellaneous beverages. 

“The size of this trade mission delegation speaks to the phenomenal potential that exists for U.S. exporters in Vietnam and surrounding countries,” McKinney said. “Since the United States normalized relations with Vietnam in 1995, our agricultural exports have grown exponentially, reaching a record $4 billion last year. Sales of U.S. food and farm products to Thailand and Burma also set records in 2018, topping $2.1 billion and $126 million, respectively.”

A recent Foreign Agricultural Service (FAS) report stated that the formerly agrarian-based economies of Vietnam, Thailand, and Burma no longer rely on domestic agricultural production as the primary source of food and just last year imported a combined total of more than $42 billion in agricultural goods. Of that total, the U.S. exported more than $2.1 billion to Thailand, $4.0 billion to Vietnam and $126.7 million to Burma.

“Going forward, U.S. agricultural producers should concentrate on expanding partnerships within the three countries, especially as their economies continue to develop and per capita incomes rise,” the FAS "Growing Markets" report stated.

The report added that dairy could be a top prospect for growth in Vietnam and Thailand. U.S. exports of dairy to Vietnam reached $145 million in 2018, a 29% increase from 2017. Despite strong competition from countries that enjoy preferential tariffs via free trade agreements with Vietnam (such as New Zealand, Australia and Europe), U.S. dairy products have a strong position in the Vietnamese market.

Export values for U.S. skim milk powder ranked highest in the dairy products group in 2018 based on a strong U.S. supply advantage. Additionally, demand has been increasing for ingredients in Vietnam’s dairy sector, which has grown 10-12% annually. In addition to milk powder, there is strong potential for processed cheese to supply the expanding foodservice sector, with the export value for these products increasing by 25% to $570,000 in 2018, FAS said.

The U.S. chiefly sells whey, milk powder and lactose to Thailand. However, the fastest-growing dairy segment for the U.S. in Thailand is cheese, with sales of $6.5 million in cheese products last year, up from $4.6 million in 2014.

Over the last decade, Vietnam’s consumption of meat has risen in line with the growing middle class. The country’s booming hotel, restaurant and industry sectors continue to drive up demand for imported beef, pork, poultry and seafood.

U.S. beef exports to Vietnam grew 35% from 2017 to 2018 to nearly $82 million. U.S. pork, despite facing strong competition from Europe, saw tremendous growth in 2018, increasing 191% to $35 million. The recent improvements in Vietnam’s meat processing industry, supported by increases in both local and foreign investment, have also driven the country’s demand for pork.

“In addition to Vietnam’s foodservice industry, U.S. pork producers should look to Vietnam’s meat processing industry as a market for pork trimming and other budget cuts,” FAS stated.

U.S. poultry exports had a record year in 2018, reaching $110 million, and exports remained strong during the first seven months of 2019.

Due to the rapid expansion of the Burmese livestock industry, FAS said experts predict increases in corn imports for feeding purposes. In 2018, the U.S. was the second-largest exporter of corn to Burma, behind Thailand. In 2018, Burma imported $1.1 million in corn from the world and $384,000 from the U.S.

Joining McKinney on the mission will be the heads of six state agriculture departments: Benjamin Thomas of Montana, Jeff Witte of New Mexico, Doug Goehring of North Dakota, Kim Vanneman of South Dakota, Sid Miller of Texas and Doug Miyamoto of Wyoming. Officials from the Georgia, Maine, Minnesota, Tennessee, Virginia, Wisconsin and Washington departments of agriculture will participate as well.

The trip will further include individuals representing the American Feed Industry Assn., Food Export Assn. of the Midwest USA, Isa Beefmasters, U.S. Dairy Export Council, U.S. Grains Council, U.S. Livestock Genetics Export Inc., U.S. Soybean Export Council and United Dairy Ingredients Group LLC.

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