‘Yes, Vietnam has failed’

13 Jul, 2016 10:00 AM
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Local livestock being transported in Vietnam.
Local livestock being transported in Vietnam.

IT is flexing its muscles to become one of Australia’s most significant importers of Australian food and fibre, but understanding the burgeoning powerhouse that is Vietnam is not easy.

Seductive trade opportunities spurred Elders to take 30 progressive Australian woolgrowers and myself to Hong Kong and Vietnam and introduce us to both the opportunities and barriers that exist in these countries.

My western eyes were agog watching the daily grind of Vietnam's streets.

It was shocking to see seven people fearlessly perched on one motorcycle.

It was shocking to see a portable butcher openly transport his goods in 40-degree heat.

And it was shocking that I had no understanding of this country’s culture that is geographically so close to home.

Vietnam, a one-party Communist state, is one of the world’s fastest-growing economies and has set its sights on becoming a "developed" nation by 2020.

It is a densely packed nation, with a population of 94 million people, and a landmass roughly equivalent to Victoria and Tasmania combined.

It is a fascinating country to visit – a land of great excitement, with exotic food and culture, overwhelming cities and flourishing market opportunities as average people's incomes and expectations grow.

Part of the trade challenge for Australian exporters is understanding the Vietnamese lifestyle.

Food is purchased fresh from markets on a daily basis, so in most cases livestock is slaughtered and consumed within days.

When we visited the very proud and young owner of Anh Khai Ky (AKK) feedlot, Nguyen Thanh Thuyen, he had sold 70 beasts to local abattoirs that day.

Minimal refrigeration or availability of ice means the country maintains a grassroots supply chain - local communities are fed through daily offerings at markets rather than Australia’s weekly supermarket-shop approach.

Like most importers, Mr Thuyen works closely with Elders staff to uphold Australia’s Exporter Supply Chain Assurance System.

His business is watched from afar through live CCTV and he is proud his operation can satisfy Western standards.

That he can hold his head high in his dealings with western nations - satisfying what in Vietnam must be considered the somewhat exotic demands of a seller by still having a say over what happens to a product once it is sold - is immensely satisfying to him.

Another site we visited, a feedlot with the capacity to hold 10,000 head was under construction and had already placed an order for 3000 head for next month.

By Australian standards, I would have thought it was more shovel ready than nearing completion, but they build things fast in Southeast Asia.

However, they are on track and forging ahead, and doing so under the big brother eye of Australia’s live exporters.

The other watchful eye Vietnam is becoming familiar with is animal activists.

Yes, they have failed, yes they have a long way to go, but surely we need to celebrate some of the achievements of the Australian livestock industry in Vietnam, which - through education - has influenced animal welfare standards for the better.

Vietnam is a land of comfortable chaos, and one the Australia agricultural industry is working well with.

Annabelle Beale travelled to Vietnam as a guest of Elders.

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FarmOnline
Annabelle Cleeland

Annabelle Cleeland

is the national sheep and wool writer for Fairfax Agricultural Media
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READER COMMENTS

Barker
13/07/2016 3:27:00 PM

This is uncivilised, callous and ignorant animal abuse. A good reason to ban live export and to keep Australia's animals away from countries that have no laws to protect animals from the ongoing cruelty that never ends. The live trade supports animal cruelty and is nothing to be proud of.

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