Vietnam’s voracious appetite for banh mi is fuelling booming demand for WA wheat, with one of the country’s biggest flour millers unveiling plans to increase imports by up to 50 per cent. Vietnam Flour Corporation currently imports up to 100,000 tonnes of Australian wheat annually, 60 per cent of which comes from WA via grain handler CBH Group. The company’s two mills produce 1000t of wheat flour a day, with the opening of a third facility next year set to boost daily production capacity by another 500t. VFC subsidiary brands including Vikybomi and Intermix use the flour to make a vast array of baked goods, instant noodles and premixed products consumed domestically and exported to Indonesia, the US and Australia. Intermix vice-general director Tu Le Thanh Vy said Australian wheat was “always prioritised” — especially WA-grown APW and H2 varieties, which go into the baguettes VLC makes at its on-site bakeries. “Bahn mi bread is what they use it for. Right now, that is the highest demand in the market,” Ms Thanh Vy said. “Next year, we are sure that the amount (of WA wheat) that we import will be increasing. “The Mekong factory will start operating — that’s why we have to increase importing, to make sure that we have enough flour.” Banh mi is a salad and meat-filled roll sold at roadside stalls and in restaurants across Vietnam, and consumed in vast quantities as the Vietnamese adopt Western eating habits. Ms Thanh Vy said WA wheat was valued for its “stable quality” and suitability for many staple Vietnemese dishes. “We have no worries using wheat imported from Australia, and because your country is near to our country, the cost for logistics is lower,” she said. “Also, there is no tax importing from Australia.” Ms Thanh Vy made the comments during a visit by 37 WA farmers to VFC’s Ho Chi Minh City factory as part of this year’s CBH Group Grower Study tour. Growers and staff expected a low-key afternoon tea but were instead treated to an elaborate feast complete with speeches translated by a bilingual MC, and set to a dramatic musical score. A host of senior VFC staff attended the lunch — which was covered by Vietnamese media — giving growers the chance to network and discuss prices, markets, and transportation. Bindi Bindi grower Natham Turner said he was confused, then shocked by the spectacle. “It was something else; I definitely didn’t expect to pull up to this little bakery and have a big procession in front of us,” he said. “I thought they had a big function set up for someone else, and it turned out it was for us.” Jerdacuttup grower Brian Wake said he was moved by the efforts of VFC staff and all Vietnamese hosts on the trip. “They were friendly, they couldn’t have been more hospitable and open, and they were very generous with their time,” he said. “They almost waited on us. . . and without exception, they welcomed us us to their country and their way of life.” One of Vietnam’s oldest and largest flour millers, VFC is run by founder and chair Huynh Kim Chi, who launched the business from her home kitchen in the early 1990s. The company also mills flour using softer wheat varieties imported from the US and Canada, which are sometimes blended with Australian flour. But Ms Chi said Australian wheat had long been considered ideal for the Vietnamese market. “We have used it to create more than 300 product lines that are chosen by consumers,” she told Vietnamese media.