Country Profiles

International trade

Official beef imports have increased sharply since 2007 (Figure 8). It is reported by industry officials that 70% of imported beef is used for markets in southern provinces, especially Ho Chi Minh City, and 30% is consumed in Hanoi and Hai Phong. A number of factors explain the import surge including constrained production, increasing domestic prices and especially strong demand (incomes, population growth, urbanisation). Lower import tariffs have been partially offset by recent depreciation in the local currency. Hanoi and Ho Chi Minh city are major consumption centres for imported beef.

Figure 8: Bovine meat import to Vietnam


Source: UN Comtrade (2014)

The largest bovine meat supplier to Vietnam over the past six years was India, while imports from Australia and the US have also been significantly increased (Figure 9). It is reported by industry officials that a large amount of buffalo meat is temporarily imported through ‘grey channels’ from India to Vietnam, and then re-exported to China. The dearth of formal data on this trade precludes quantification of volumes.

Figure 9: Bovine meat import to Vietnam by countries


Source: UN Comtrade (2014)

There are distinct markets for imported beef in Vietnam. Beef (mostly loin cuts) from the US and Australia competes at the higher end segment, including HRI. Buffalo meat from India is distributed in other lower end segment.
Offal imports have fluctuated but the quantity has also increased since 2001 (Figure 10). Data is still being collected to assess whether the imported offal has been re-exported to China.

Figure 10: Offal import to Vietnam


Source: UN Comtrade (2014)

Following reduced cattle numbers in Vietnam, and growing demand from both domestic markets and China, Vietnamese importers have capitalised on opportunities to import cattle from neighbouring countries and Australia. According to Cocks et al. (2009), there were nine entry points for live cattle/buffalo traded from Laos and Cambodia to Vietnam with the two main pathways highlighted in orange (Figure 11).

Laos – Vietnam

The cross-border trade between Laos and Vietnam are mainly at Lao Bao (Quang Tri province), Cha Lo gate (Quang Binh province) and Cho U (Nghe An province). The cattle traded in these two border gates are mainly Brahman. The movement of cattle through Cha Lo gate mostly involves Brahman cattle (from Thailand and Myanmar) which transit through Laos. There were 2,800 Brahman cattle cross through the border gate in 2009 (Cocks et al., 2009), imported through a registered company in Quang Binh. The imported animals go through official procedures including health and import certificate verification, vaccination for FMD and 15-45 days in quarantine holding before border entry.

Cattle movement through Lao Bao gate was mostly informal. It is difficult to control trade at Lao Bao due to the number of pathways used to bring animals to Vietnam. It is estimated that 60-70 people walk up to 500 cattle and buffalos per day cross the border to Vietnam (Cocks et al., 2009).

The traded cattle are transported to target destinations including Hanoi and China for slaughter. Some juvenile cattle are destined for fattening in Nghe An and Central provinces.

Figure 11: Pathways of live cattle movement. Source: adapted from Cocks et al. (2009)


Cambodia – Vietnam

According to Cock et al. (2009), the major entry points for semi-formal live cattle traded from Cambodia into southern Vietnam are An Giang, Kien Giang, Tay Ninh and Long An.

A recent visit to An Giang (July 2014) found that cattle were walked by traders through paddy fields across the border. After crossing the border, animals were gathered in Ta Ngao assembly market. This market opens daily and usually counts up to 100-300 head. The animals were then transported to (i) slaughterhouses within or outside province for slaughter, and (ii) fattening farms within or outside the province (Figure 12). The number of cattle traded was large (roughly 3,000 head/month at peak time).

Fattening of young beef cattle is widely practiced in An Giang. About 90% of households in An Phu commune of Tinh Bien district and Vinh Gia commune of Tri Ton district are fattening cattle on a small scale (5-10 head). Apart from An Giang, the fattening operations are developing rapidly in Ben Tre and Long An.

Figure 12: Pathways for cattle imported from Cambodia to An Giang.


Source: Field visit July 2014


As the demand for quality beef increases in Vietnam, particularly in urban areas, imports of Australian slaughter cattle and feeder cattle have increased rapidly since January 2013. The number of cattle imported from Australia reached 69,000 head in 2013, mostly for slaughter, and despite higher import prices the number increased to 169,960 head in 2014. Vietnam has become the second-largest importer of Australian cattle, behind only Indonesia. Vietnam presents an important opportunity for Australia’s live cattle export to diversity its markets from the Indonesian market. It is acknowledged by industry officials that around 70% of imported cattle are destined for fattening and slaughter for consumption in Ho Chi Minh City, and 30% for consumption in Hanoi. A number of feedlots and slaughterhouses have been constructed or are currently under construction in the southern provinces, which meet the Exporter Supply Chain Assurance System (ESCAS) to qualify for cattle imports from Australia for slaughter and fattening.

Vietnam – China

Before 2008, cattle were imported to Vietnam from China for slaughterhouses in Ha Noi and other cities. The direction of cattle movement reversed after 2008. . Traders buy cattle and buffaloes from other provinces in Vietnam such as Nghe An, Thanh Hoa and transport by trucks to Tra Linh market, Cao Bang province. Many of these cattle are imported through Laos and Cambodia.

Live cattle movement across Vietnam-China border is semi-formal. Traders from China come to Tra Linh market to buy cattle from Vietnamese traders. Even in Tra Linh where official border gate exists, traders often hire local Vietnamese people to walk cattle and buffaloes through border crossings (500-1,000 cattle per market day, 8 market days per month).
The high incidence of semi-formal trade to China and Vietnam reflects high demand, price differentials, and trade policy settings in China. China’s beef import policy has been driven by domestic health and food safety issues, banning imports from those countries that do not have disease free cattle/beef industries (Waldron & Brown, 2014).

With regard to trade in general / trade through all channels, Trade patterns are strongly influenced by price differences and border restrictions. There is a need to accurately predict the impact of policy changes and other changes of basic conditions on industry development and also on livelihoods of smallholders and other stakeholders involved in the cattle and beef sector. These changes could be further analysed include: impact of a liberalisation of live cattle export policies in Myanmar; impact of opening up of direct cattle exports from Australia to China; impact of clampdown on semi-formal cattle trade between Vietnam and China; impact of rise in cattle feed prices; and impact of consumption increases in Vietnam.

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