French apples and beef will be officially imported into and sold in Vietnam after many years of absence, representatives of French fruit-vegetable and meat-livestock associations said at a press conference in Ho Chi Minh City this week.
The initial goal of the comeback is to build trust in Vietnamese consumers, particularly in the context of the EU and Vietnam having signed a free trade agreement that will promote trade between the bloc, including France, the French Inter-branch Association for Fruit and Vegetable (INTERFEL) said during the "Bonjour French Food" news conference on Tuesday.
The EU and Vietnam last Wednesday clinched a free trade deal that will remove nearly all tariffs on goods traded between the two sides.
The agreement followed two and a half years of intense negotiations between the 28-nation European Union and Vietnam, whose two-way trade has grown three-fold to 28 billion euros (about $30 billion) in the last 10 years.
French firms do not pay much attention to sales, and though they are an important factor, they are the secondary objective for the future, said the representatives of the INTERFEL and the French Meat and Livestock Association (INTERBEV).
Vietnam suspended beef imports from France 15 years ago right after the mad cow crisis erupted in Britain, and then spread to other European countries, said Emmanuel Bernard from the INTERBEV.
However, France has controlled the disease very well on a large scale with only one mad cow case discovered and handled over the last 11 years.
In May 2015 the World Organization for Animal Health recognized that France has the best mechanisms for the prevention and handling of mad cow disease, Bernard said.
Vietnam has licensed 23 French companies wishing to export beef to the Southeast Asian country following an inspection by a Vietnamese veterinary delegation at cow farms in France in the middle of this year, he said.
Regarding the advantages of French beef over that from Australia, which is widely sold in Vietnam, Bernard said a special feature of the former is traceability, meaning the source of origin can be traced down to individual cows at a specific farm, while the traceability of Australian cows is only at farm level.
Moreover, 90-92 percent of feed for cows is produced at the farms where cows are raised, using only natural ingredients not containing any genetically modified organisms in accordance with the EU law, Bernard added.
France can export fresh and frozen beef, but it will ship frozen beef to Vietnam first for market study.
In addition, the export volume of French beef to Vietnam, priced similarly to Australian and American beef in the same segments, will not be large enough initially, thus preventing any erratic price movements, he added.
The relevant agencies of Vietnam also re-opened the market for French apples in mid-August after an inspection trip in July, said Bruno Dupont from the INTERFEL.
France exported 600 metric tons of apples to Vietnam in 2012, but suspended the fruit later that year due to low export volume, Dupont added.