Vietnam spends big on abattoir training to secure Aussie cow imports

By Minh Nga   March 13, 2018 | 12:19 am PT
Vietnam spends big on abattoir training to secure Aussie cow imports
Cows are seen in an enclosure at a livestock export yard in Noonamah, about 50Km south of the northern Australian city of Darwin. Photo by Reuters/Tim Wimborne
Exports of live Aussie cattle to Vietnam were suspended in 2016 after abattoirs were accused of animal abuse.

Two commercial companies in Vietnam have invested millions of dollars to develop two training facilities for abbatoir workers so that the Vietnamese beef industry can continue to secure imports of live cattle from Australia.

The training facilities in southern Vietnam, which are set to open within this month, will offer three-month programs for workers to learn how to process cattle properly, Radio Australia said on Tuesday.

Growing demand for Australian cattle has prompted Vietnam's processing sector to invest in abattoir training facilities to improve animal welfare.

In 2016, Australia’s Department of Agriculture suspended trade after video footage showed Australian cattle being bludgeoned to death in Vietnamese abattoirs.

The department banned two unnamed Australian exporters and an unapproved facility under Australia's Exporter Supply Chain Assurance System (ESCAS) rules from supplying cattle to Vietnam.

ESCAS is designed to ensure that exported Australian livestock are handled in accordance with international animal welfare standards and to provide a mechanism to deal with animal welfare issues when they occur.

The Australian Embassy told VnExpress International back then that Australia had suspended livestock supplies to 18 abattoirs and feedlots in Vietnam pending an investigation into alleged animal cruelty.

Since then Australia has been working with Vietnam, which is the second-largest importer of live Australian cattle, to improve its animal welfare standards to ensure the country complies with ESCAS.

Vietnam’s cattle industry is failing to meet the country's increasing demand for beef, forcing local consumers to turn to imported products.

Last year, the country imported more than 262,300 live cattle, and nearly 42,000 tons of beef and buffalo meat, valued at more than $410 million, official government data shows.

Explaining the reason for the imports, Tong Xuan Chinh, an official from the agriculture ministry, said Vietnamese people’s diets have changed drastically in recent years, and they're now eating more beef and buffalo meat.

Average consumption per capita has doubled to 5-6 kilograms of beef and buffalo meat per year in the past decade, but the cattle industry has been unable to keep up with the pace. Local supplies of beef and buffalo meat only meet 80 percent of the current demand.

Imported beef, mainly from Australia and the U.S., is available in air conditioned supermarkets, modern food stores and local markets, and some restaurants are also using imported beef in their dishes.

Many local consumers favor imported products thanks to their reasonable prices and food safety concerns that have plagued the Vietnamese food market in recent years. Beef imported from Australia and the U.S. costs from VND100,000-500,000 ($4.4-22.02) per kilogram, around the same price as local products.

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