Export group celebrates U.S. beef allowed back in Vietnam

Cattle Market & Farm Reports, Editorials
Mar 7, 2005
by WLJ
The U.S. Meat Export Federation (MEF) hosted a “Celebrate Tet With U.S. Beef” event in Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam, Feb. 24 to kick off the return of U.S. beef to that country.
Although a small market for U.S. beef—about 22 metric tons in 2002 and 16 in 2003—prior to a ban resulting from the discovery of a single imported animal with BSE in December 2003, it is one of the first Asian countries to reopen to U.S. product.
More than 50 U.S. exporters, Vietnamese importers, retailers and restaurant owners, and Vietnamese officials attended the celebration. Seth Winnick, U.S. Consul General; Philip Seng, MEF president and CEO; John Wilson, agricultural attachéé; and Eric Choon, MEF manager of ASEAN operations, welcomed the group and proclaimed that the market reopening would launch a new era in U.S. trade. MEF Chef Sabrina Yin, based in Singapore, was on hand to offer new ways to prepare and present U.S. top blade and shortplate.
Since new leadership was elected in 2001, Vietnamese authorities have moved to implement the structural reforms needed to modernize the economy and to produce more competitive industries. Vietnam is a 10-year member of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN), a regional free trade association, and is in the process of joining the World Trade Organization (WTO).
Ho Chi Minh City is the rapidly growing “economic engine” of the emerging Vietnamese economy, accounting for 60 percent of Vietnam’’s gross domestic product in 2004. Its expanding incomes and its residents’ taste for international cuisine make the city that used to be called Saigon a logical market for high-quality U.S. beef products.
For example, one U.S. expatriate operates a Texas-style barbecue that serves up more than 750 pounds of beef and pork products a week and is eyeing new outlets in both Ho Chi Minh City and Hanoi.
He is using locally-produced meat and Australian imports, but attended the meeting to “make the necessary connections to put U.S. beef, and its authentic flavor,” back on his menu. He sees new uses for top blade and shortplate, but added “I’m looking for premium steaks as well.”
Other importers, retailers and restaurant owners mirrored this excitement about the potential for U.S. beef on their shelves and menus. They see Ho Chi Minh City as a city “accustomed to French and U.S. foods with an appetite to consume more.”
But it’s not just the capital that has potential. Southern Vietnam, in particular, is a new “destination” attracting tourists from Europe, Japan, Korea and the U.S. Japanese and Korean visitors were number one and two in 2004, but U.S. tourists are now in fourth place, and their numbers are growing.
“All three groups love U.S. beef and want to be able to find it during their vacations,” said one restaurateur, “and we’re ready to supply it.” He added that residents and visitors want everything from “a good old-fashioned hamburger to a really good steak.”
While in Ho Chi Minh City, Seng, Asia-Pacific Vice President Joel Haggard and Information Services Vice President Lynn Heinze joined Foreign Agricultural Service representatives on a tour of French-based Metro operations and other potential U.S. beef customers. — WLJ