Almost overnight, the Northern Territory's buffalo industry has gone from having almost no markets to having a customer demanding record numbers.

One importer in Vietnam has said it alone wants to take 60,000 buffalo a year from Australia.

Secretary of the NT Buffalo Industry Council (NTBIC), Harmony Teelow, says after several lean years, the industry now has a challenge on its hands to meet the strong demand.

She says, realistically, the Northern Territory could supply around 10,000 head this year to Vietnam.

"After meeting importers (in Vietnam), I'm feeling a lot more confident about this market," she said.

"They've put infrastructure in and made dollar commitments going forward into the future.

"I think that gives us, the producers, the confidence to invest in our herds and go forward too.

"If we are to keep supplying this trade, which is what we need to do, then yes, we need to invest dollars.

"So we have to get our pastures up and our fences up, but it's an investment that can not only be used for buffalo, it can be used for cattle or whatever livestock you've got, so it's a good investment."

Since a health protocol was signed in January, there have already been two shipments of Northern Territory buffalo to Vietnam this year.

Both have gone to the importing company Animex, based in Hai Phong.

The NT's Minister for Primary Industry, Willem Westra van Holthe, was in Hai Phong to see the second shipment of around 400 buffalo arrive.

He says when it comes to buffalo, he wants the NT to become the 'supplier of choice' for Vietnam.

"The outlook is very good... but everyone has to do their bit here, so industry will need to supply the demand and I think it's important that in the next 12 months we create some confidence not only on the producers' side, but also confidence over here in Vietnam that we can supply their needs.

"So I think going forward it's all looking very good and I think (the market) is as secure as it can be at this point."

The buffalo industry is being very careful not to over-promise and under-deliver to the Vietnam market this year. But even a conservative 10,000 head exported in 2014 would be a record-breaking achievement.

In 2012, only 628 buffalo were exported from the Northern Territory, with many others sold domestically as pet meat for very low prices.

Despite large aerial culls, the wild buffalo population in regions such as Arnhem Land is exploding, and the NT Government now estimates (conservatively) there are 100,000 wild buffalo in the Top End.

By Matt Brann - - March 17, 2014