Written by Lyn Jerde
The Associated Press
Say the word "milk" in Vietnam, and the words that come to mind for many Vietnamese people are "tall," "wide" and "strong."
That's one thing that Ben Brancel, secretary of the Wisconsin Department of Agriculture Trade and Consumer Protection, observed on his recent trade mission to the Republic of Vietnam.
The people of Vietnam love to drink milk, and parents want their children to drink milk, because they hope milk will increase their children's size, stature and strength.
James Dick, DATCP communications director, said statistics show that average per-capita milk consumption in Vietnam remains modest by world standards, but it's growing rapidly. Between 2009 and 2010, Vietnam's consumption of liquid milk rose by 22 percent, from 11.4 liters to 14 liters per capita -- one of the world's highest growth rates. (Brancel noted that milk is, by far, the principle dairy product consumed in Vietnam; consumption of cheese, yogurt and other products is minimal.)
By 2015, Dick said, Vietnam's Ministry of Agriculture and Rural Development predicts that milk consumption will increase to 21 liters per capita; by 2025, predictions call for 34 liters per capita.
By exporting not only milk, but also bovine genetic material, cattle feed and other tools that Vietnamese farmers need to improve their dairy herds, Wisconsin can help Vietnam diversify and improve the foods available to its people, Brancel said.
But milk is only one Wisconsin product for which Vietnam is a potential customer.
"They don't really know Wisconsin," Brancel said of the Vietnamese people. "We're just a small state in the United States. But our visit helped inform them of the many products we have here -- our dairy industry, our wood industry, our ethanol industry."
Brancel (who also is a Marquette County beef farmer) and Jennifer Lu, an economic development specialist with DATCP, went on a trade mission to Vietnam Jan. 7 though 14, to identify opportunities and challenges for trade between Wisconsin and Vietnam.
Wisconsin Ag Secretary Ben Brancel pushes milk in Vietnam