The fifth of seven U.S. trade missions for 2019 has gone “particularly well,” U.S. Department of Agriculture undersecretary for trade and foreign agricultural affairs Ted McKinney told media Friday during a conference call.
McKinney, along with many other U.S. leaders and stakeholders, were still in Vietnam, where he said there is a rapidly growing economy as well as rapid growth in purchases and interest in U.S. food and agricultural products. The mission was a two-city tour to Ho Chi Minh City and Hanoi, Vietnam.
McKinney said the missions usually seek to accomplish three things: sell U.S. product., visit key customers and conduct government-to-government meetings. Those things were accomplished during this trip, he added.
“All of our salespeople had a total of 665 meetings over the course of three days,” he noted. There were buyers from Vietnam, Thailand and Myanmar. “We had 34 companies and 13 state department of agriculture,” McKinney said.
There were also three regional groups and USDA commodity groups.
While the data are not complete and only 14 of 34 companies have reported, the companies estimate approximately $5.1 million in sales. “So, we’re very pleased with that,” McKinney said.
This is one of the largest of the agricultural trade missions.
Vietnam has grown incredibly, McKinney said. In 1995, it was the 95th-largest global market, but by last year, it was the seventh-largest destination for U.S. food and agricultural products, totaling $4.2 billion in sales.
“Like with many countries, we’re always working back and forth to gain further access to their markets. We’re very, very pleased to report that we got fresh blueberries access to Vietnam. In exchange, Vietnam mangoes began entering the U.S. market,” he said.
Meetings with the government also went really well, McKinney relayed.
“Overall, the relationship with Vietnam is just really, really outstanding and getting better. There are always things we have to work on for them, and most certainly, there are things they’re working on for us, but we see enormous, enormous potential for food and ag and fuel, for that matter -- maybe even fiber products going from the U.S. to Vietnam," he said.
“Clearly, the U.S. is a country they want to do business with, and without any doubt, Vietnam is a place that we want to do business," McKinney said.
African swine fever status uncertain
Regarding African swine fever (ASF), McKinney said it continues to clearly be a problem “not just for countries that have it but also for those that don’t want to get it.”
It’s tough to say whether the disease is contained in Vietnam, he added.
While the feedback there varied, McKinney said the view is that the swine herd in Vietnam is expected to be down about 20%.
McKinney noted that the chief executive officer of a very large feed-oriented company said the country seems to be managing the disease well. “He hasn’t sensed an enhanced spread. The government is fully in control; everyone is taking it seriously. So, they’re working on it,” he said.
According to McKinney, countries in the region are currently getting geared up for Lunar New Year and are being “very, very watchful in preparing to have enough protein.”
They are currently looking to retain pork as well as chicken and beef.
“They felt like they could supply at least most of the needs for the holiday,” he said, adding, “Yes, they are worried, but they are working on it.”