|The price of US beef imported to Viet Nam has dropped to as little as US$10 a kilo in recent times (minus the import tax)|
Beef has been imported into Viet Nam from Australia, New Zealand, Canada, the US, Argentina and Brazil for several years now but the high prices continue to keep it out of the reach of most Vietnamese families.
A salesman from Gold Garden, one of just five companies that import US beef into Ho Chi Minh City, says his company’s main buyers are big hotels, fancy restaurants and foreigners, whereas the general public shows little interest in it.
Viet Nam’s WTO commitments include lowering the import duty on beef from 20% to 14%, and on pork from 30% to 15%.
Yet even with a reduced tax, foreign beef will remain prohibitively expensive for most people and will not flood the Vietnamese market, says Van Duc Muoi, deputy director of the Vissan Import Export Corporation.
Other companies agree and calculate that imported beef won’t fall below VND250,000 (US$15.60) a kilo, which is three times the price of home-grown beef in the shops.
They might say that yet the price of US beef has dropped to as little as US$10 a kilo in recent times (minus the import tax).
Anyway, a representative of a meat processing company points out that since Vietnamese people prefer fresh meat to frozen, the tariff reductions will have little impact on the imported beef market.
An official from the Ministry of Agriculture and Rural Development’s Animal Breeding Department believes the domestic market is big enough that beef importation will never be of major concern to Vietnamese companies.
Around 100,000 tons of beef is purchased in Viet Nam each year, or 1.5 kg per person, a very small quantity whichever way you look at it.
The import market is particularly short on fat. According to a Ministry of Trade report, last year’s turnover from US beef imports was a mere US$800,000.