Asian taste for western diet boosts Australian wheat

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CNS Canada – Vietnam has quietly grown to become Australia’s second largest export destination for wheat.

Driving the demand is the iconic banh mi, a Vietnamese baguette-style sandwich filled with pork or chicken and spices.

Vietnam imports 1.5 million tonnes of Australian wheat, based on 2016 figures, compared to 380,000 tonnes 10 years ago, said the Australian Grains Innovation Centre.

Throughout southeastern Asia, people are becoming more exposed to western diets and are changing to more wheat products, away from their usual staple food, rice. The centre said it bases that on feedback from millers. In Vietnam, for example, wheat has become the second most-consumed staple following rice, it said.

As well, noodles in Vietnam are made almost exclusively from Australian wheat, the centre reported.

“Australian wheat is well regarded in Vietnam for its white flour and bran colour, low moisture, high milling yield and functional attributes for end products such as banh mi and instant noodles,” said Roslyn Jettner, program leader at the centre.

However, she said competition is growing in the southeastern Asian marketplace, especially from North American suppliers able to meet high technical specs for baking.

Australian grain in Vietnam snapshot:

– Vietnam is the second largest market for Australian wheat after Indonesia, having imported 1.5 million tonnes in 2016, valued at A$466 million.

– Over the past 10 years, Vietnam has imported 13 million tonnes of Australian wheat valued at A$4 billion.

– Banh mi is the Vietnamese word for bread. The baguette-style bread dates back to its French colonial period. Banh mi also refers to a specific type of sandwich with pork or chicken, pate, coriander, cucumber, pickled carrot, chili and mayonnaise.

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