Vietnam is forecast to spend as much as US$4.5 billion on imports of animal feed material, and another $400 million on cattle and poultry meat shipments this year, the head of the Vietnam Livestock Association said Wednesday.
Imports of raw materials to make livestock feed, mostly corn and soybean, are expected to increase by around $600 million compared to last year to a record high of $4.5 billion, Nguyen Dang Vang said at a conference in Ho Chi Minh City.
The event, held as part of Vietnam's Premier International Feed, Livestock and Meat Industry Show (Vietstock 2014), discussed the opportunities and challenges facing the national livestock industry when Vietnam joins the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) trade pact.
The TPP is a proposed regional free-trade agreement aimed at eliminating tariffs and reducing non-tariff barriers. Twelve nations throughout the Asia-Pacific region have participated in negotiations on the TPP: Australia, Brunei, Canada, Chile, Japan, Malaysia, Mexico, New Zealand, Peru, Singapore, the United States, and Vietnam.
The Southeast Asian country is projected to import $250 million worth of live and slaughtered cattle this year, with shipments from Australia accounting for 80 percent, or $200 million, according to the chairman.
Imports of poultry meat and byproducts are expected to top $120 million, he added.
“The trend of importing meat and livestock products will continue in the future, especially after Vietnam has joined the TPP,” Vang said.
Vietnam will prefer importing these products, as the country’s cost prices for livestock are the highest among the nations in the TPP talks, he explained.
“Our livestock breeders offer poor quality produce, and small-scale livestock farms account for up to 60 percent of the sector,” he said.
Vang added that these are huge challenges for the Vietnamese livestock industry, as other TPP countries have modern technology and low production costs.
The chairman pressed that livestock “is the industry that will suffer the biggest disadvantage” when Vietnam joins the trade pact.
“The government thus should have special policies to assist the industry in the future," he urged.
Vietstock 2014 runs from October 15 to 17 and has attracted some 250 businesses from 30 countries.
Vietnam consumes around 4,000 cows, mostly imported cattle, on a daily basis, according to statistics released late August by the Ministry of Industry and Trade.
Australian beef currently holds a 70 percent market share in Ho Chi Minh City thanks to rising demand, the ministry said.
In 2013 Vietnam imported nearly 67,000 cows from Australia, but the figure rose to 120,000 in just the first seven months of this year.
Vietnam has surpassed China to become the second-largest importer of Australian cattle, behind only Indonesia, according to the trade ministry.