Protecting Vietnam’s Growing Demand for U.S. Soft White Wheat
Vietnam’s flour millers annually import a total of more than 1.8 million metric tons (MMT) of milling wheat and wheat consumption is projected to grow by 4 percent to 6 percent per year. Rapidly expanding demand there for cookies, crackers and cakes is an ideal target market for low-protein soft white (SW) wheat grown in Washington, Oregon and Idaho.
With funding from the Foreign Market Development (FMD) and Market Access Program (MAP), U.S. Wheat Associates (USW) has demonstrated the advantages of SW flour by introducing solvent retention capacity (SRC) analysis to Vietnam’s millers and manufacturers. Even though Vietnam imposes a 5 percent tariff on imported milling wheat and competing Australian wheat enters duty free, U.S. SW annual imports increased from about 39,000 metric tons (MT) in marketing year 2013/14 (June to May) to almost 93,000 MT in 2015/16.
That import pace continued into early 2016/17, but after discovering minor insect presence in some U.S. wheat and DDGS cargoes, the Vietnamese government on Dec. 1, 2016, required all U.S. shipments be fumigated with the insecticide methyl bromide. This effectively blocked U.S. wheat exports because methyl bromide is banned for most uses here and is impractical for bulk grain treatment.
USW Headquarters and Southeast Asia office staff immediately began working with the U.S. Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service (APHIS) to address this issue. USW provided some of the information APHIS used in an official response to Vietnam, which opened the door to negotiations. APHIS and shippers ultimately established specific insect control requirements that were acceptable to Vietnam’s Plant Protection Department. The restriction ended Aug. 31, 2017, a notably fast resolution to such a significant Sanitary/Phytosanitary trade barrier.
Soft white exports to Vietnam dipped to about 58,000 MT in 2016/17. Yet USW kept providing trade service and technical support visits to Vietnamese flour mills and bakeries. Although millers could not import U.S. wheat for the first three months of 2017/18, SW sales for the year rebounded to more than 93,500 MT, valued at almost $19 million. Total U.S. wheat exports to Vietnam, including hard red spring and hard red winter wheat, in 2017/18 reached almost 186,000 MT.