Experts say there are three deeper causes which make Vietnam's pig industry particularly vulnerable during the current-day feed crisis: breeder pigs, feed and veterinary issues.
The Vietnamese animal husbandry industry lacks an adequate guideline for development, and these are the three main culprits for its gloomy status.
Associate professor Dr Le Van Kinh from the Vietnam Agricultural Technologies Institute, says Vietnamese breeder pigs are of poor quality, which increases cost price for raising pigs. “And consequently, farmers will suffer losses when pork prices slump,” adds Kinh.
Meanwhile, figures from the Vietnam Husbandry Association show that the country has to import as much as 80% of raw materials for animal feed manufacturing, which costs a massive US$3 billion a year.
Again, the heavy reliance on imported materials results in higher expenses for pig raisers.
“In other countries, feeds only account for 50 to 55% of the cost price, while the figure is 75% in Vietnam,” says Chung Kim, a pig raising tycoon in the southern Binh Duong Province.
Regarding disease management, Nguyen Dien Tuong, director of the Dong Nai Agricultural Livestock Product JSC (Dolico), says the government has been deploying a wrong approach to controlling epidemics.
“Several diseases break out in Dong Nai every year, but the government only begins to fight back the epidemics after they have already broken out,” says Tuong.
“While prevention is better than cure, the government just follows a reverse procedure.”
Local pig farmers are also under other threats: being invaded by imported meats, and international companies.
Players like Charoen Pokphand (Thailand), Japfa (Indonesia), and Emivest (Malaysia) have almost taken control of the domestic chicken and egg markets, and are now eyeing the pig raising sector. The sows raised by these companies now account for 10% of the country’s herd.
All industry insiders, from individual pig farmers to tycoons, say raising pig is similar to gambling: Lots of money are being invested – but it’s unclear whether the money can be earned again.
Le Van Me, director of Phu Son Co in the southern province of Dong Nai, says pig raisers are all alone in the struggle to maintain the business. “Prices just go up and down, while epidemics constantly lurk around – it’s like farmers will have to gamble forever,” says Me.