Opportunities abound in Vietnam
The CRC Association recently took part in an Agricultural Innovation Showcase in Hanoi, Vietnam, organised by Austrade and featuring nearly a dozen Australian universities as well as CSIRO and the CRCs. Vietnamese companies and research organisations also took part and told the audience about their technical needs and upcoming opportunities. The Vietnam market is rapidly expanding for Australian businesses; the country is the third largest market for International education from Australia and Vietnam is an active member of a number of important trade deals for Australia, including the TPP. In fact, Vietnam was Australia's fastest growing export market in ASEAN during the 10-year period 2003-2013 with an average annual growth of 16.3% and the trend continues.
Only a few years ago, Australia sold no live cattle to Vietnam. Now, some 200,000 cattle a year are exported, most going directly for consumption but some going to feedlots in Vietnam for finishing. Meat and Livestock Australia has a staff member, Dr Michael Patching, in the market to assure welfare standards are maintained and assure supply chain integrity. Trade growth at such a rapid rate presents lots of opportunities beyond the cattle themselves - feed, nutrition and management services will all continue to grow. Vietnamese consume less than one tenth of the beef of Australians, likely meaning that cold chain logistics and the whole supply chain associated with beef will continue to grow and present opportunities for Australians for years to come. The National Institute of Animal Science, just out of Hanoi, was visited by one group of attendees who observed a highly professional artificial insemination operation supplying over 1,000,000 straws annually to local cattle breeders. All but one bull was Australian, with Brahman, Droughtmaster and Red Angus breeds all in in use - Australian herd recording and genetic selection could certainly help determine the best genetics for the local market.
Australia dairy cattle are also the foundation for a growing local market for milk and milk products. Dairy consumption is growing rapidly, with local production accounting for only 20%. The French influence on Vietnamese cuisine and diets provides a strong basis for growth. Dr. David McNeill of the University of Queensland's School of Veterinary Science gave a comprehensive presentation on the challenges facing the growth of the Vietnamese dairy industry. A skills deficient exists in managing cattle in the harsh environment and services to the industry are limited. Again, industry services around the supply chain present an excellent opportunity for Australians to work with local businesses.
Vietnam's agricultural trade to Australia is also increasing. Last year, Vietnamese lychees entered the Australian market and this year mangoes will make their first appearance. Restrictions on Australian horticulture into the Vietnamese market need to be worked on. Through the Agricultural White Paper implementation, Australia has a new Agricultural Counselor, Amy Guihot, on the ground in Hanoi to help sort through market access issues.
The Australian Centre for International Agricultural Research (ACIAR) has a long and successful history in Vietnam with 15 current projects. Over time, ACIAR will reduce the development component of its work as Vietnam moves to being a middle income nation. However, this doesn't mean that the need for agricultural innovation will cease - it will move to a different, trade-based, footing. Agricultural trade between Australia and Vietnam is set to continue to grow at a rapid rate. Innovators could assist in building the value of that trade and developing service industries around commodities. Vocational skills around husbandry, farming and logistics offer great potential beyond Australia's current strong tertiary market from Vietnam.
The CRC Association has facilitated an in-principle agreement between the Australasian Research Management Society and the VNU-University of Social Sciences and Humanities to trial delivery of ARMS Foundation level professional development modules in Vietnam in the next 6-12 months. With New Zealand, Australia and Singapore all employing the common training modules, it seems a logical step to extend the involvement to Vietnam and help develop a common understanding for managing research projects in the future. The opportunities for Australian businesses and innovators to engage in Vietnam through the Global Connections Fund, CRC-Ps and other means of assistance is vast.