Vietnamese businesses have rejected rumors that Australian importers are dumping beef in Vietnam.
Van Duc Muoi, general director of major food producer Vissan, which controls 35 percent of the beef market, told news website VnExpress that the prices of Australian beef are at market rates in Vietnam, but he said the imports carry higher prices than local goods.
He said increases in beef imports beginning last year offered more options to local food processing firms, who suffered overpriced local products due to "severe" supply shortages in the country of over 90 million residents.
Apart from a domestic herd of 6 million cattle, Vietnam imports 3,000-4,000 live cows per day from Cambodia, Laos, and Thailand, Muoi said, adding that this source of relatively low-quality beef is declining.
News website Saigon Times quoted Luu Son Thuy, a beef importer based in the Mekong Delta province of Long An, as saying that fresh Australian beef now retails at VND200,000-250,000 (US$9.48-$11.85)) per kilogram, around 2-5 percent higher than local beef.
Prices fell by half in June after local businesses were allowed to slaughter Australian cows domestically instead of importing frozen beef.
Australian beef is widely acknowledged to have higher safety and hygiene standards than Southeast Asian meat.
A cow raised in Australia often weighs 500-800 kg and has a beef-cow ratio of 55 percent while a locally raised one weighs some 250 kg and has a ratio of 50 percent.
Rumors also have it that there is a halt of Australian beef imports to protect the local cattle industry, resulting in a current shortage of the products.
But Muoi of Vissan said the real reason was that Australian suppliers had decreased imports to Vietnam since the start of this quarter.
The suppliers had initially expanded their market in Vietnam in 2012 when Indonesia -- their major importer -- announced an import cut from last year to the end of the third quarter 2013.
They have now focused back on Indonesia, which imports 400,000 cows from Australia annually, he said.
Muoi, whose firm has reduced slaughtering by 15 percent recently, expects the supply of Australian beef to improve soon to meet the high demand in Vietnam.
The country is a new and promising market for Australian importers, he said, forecasting demand and prices of the beef to rise next year.
Vietnam imported 32,500 cows from Australia in the first 11 months of this year, according to the Veterinary Department.
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