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Wednesday, May 20, 2009

Milling Around

Our second day went well. We ate a great breakfast with Michael Riedel and Tran Quoc Quan, both with the USDA. Mike works with the Foreign Agriculture Service and gave us a great overview of his position here in Saigon for the FAS. He began by telling us that U.S. exports to Vietnam last year totaled over $1 billion. This is due to the increase in disposable income that the Vietnamese people have. With more disposable income comes and increase in protein/meat intake. There has been an increase in chicken imports in Vietnam from the U.S. These chicken imports include the cheaper cuts such as drumsticks. There has also been an increase in beef consumption (exported from the U.S.), primarily in the nicer hotels, etc. He pointed out that there are still imports barriers on U.S. beef to Vietnam such as the beef must be less than 30 months of age. He is here in Vietnam to help work on trade agreements and he is a liaison with the USDA in Washington D.C. about trade with Vietnam and Cambodia. He also talked about the FAEA (Food and Agriculture Export Administration) and the importance of the FAEA and U.S. Grains Council in showing local producers how they can benefit from things such as the U.S. DDGS. After breakfast we loaded onto the bus and traveled to the Interflour Port towards the south of Vietnam. This port will be one of the first that can handle Panamax ships. Due to this and poor infrastructure, the port in Saigon will be closed at the end of this month because the port is no longer deep enough and there is too much congestion with all of the water traffic and traffic in downtown Saigon. At the Interflour Port on the Ti Vi River, we met with Jim Eckle who outlined the development of the mill and port and the surrounding area. The silos can hold 90,000 metric tons of wheat. The first of June, the first Panamax ship will arrive. This port will only be for agricultural products. The original port had two unloaders that could unload 200 tons/hour and the new unloaders will be able to do 1200 tons/hour. They are also building two new truck bays that will be able to load/unload 40 tons in 15 minutes. The current problem for U.S. exporters is that there are not enough containers to ship things back to Asia. Also, due to the lack of containers, this year no soybean meal was exported to Vietnam where as last year 90,000 tons was exported to Vietnam. After a delicious lunch at the port and mill, we traveled back towards Saigon. On the way we experienced rubber trees and hammocks! We also tasted fruits of many tastes, shapes and smells (all while playing with crabs)! This evening we shopped at a local market, learned how to barter and ate dinner at the Rex (a local GI hangout during the Vietnam War) with U.S. Grains Council staff from this area.
The U.S. Grains Council plays an important role in Vietnam by talking to producers on small, personal level about the potential implementation of U.S. feed grains in the livestock and aquaculture sectors. We were unable to see a swine farm due to the swine flu, but we learned that the main focus of U.S. Grains Council in Vietnam is the swine industry because it is growing rapidly. Government and high demand is leading to very high profits for swine producers ($65-$70/ pig net) and the USGC is competing with local grain options to improve quality of feed thru imports of U.S. grains. We leave at 3:40 AM this morning (Thursday) for Beijing where the adventures and learning will continue…

Scott Henry - Iowa State University
Amber Phillips - University of Wyoming


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