Swine and Chicken Predicament

VIET NAM - High input costs, rampant diseases and fallen meat prices jeopardize the livelihoods of local pig and chicken farmers in the Mekong Delta.
calendar icon 12 November 2008
clock icon 4 minute read

Having worked as a pig farmer for 30 years, Tran Hai Nghia of Soc Trang Province said he has never been through harder times, reports THANH NIEN NEWS.com.

“Most farmers have suffered losses,” he said. “We keep raising pigs, hoping for better sales prices, but they have shown little improvement lately.”

Nghia said he normally raised around 300 pigs for meat and 150 breeding pigs, but current pork prices were so low he can’t sell his piglets to other farmers.

“The recent price for a 100-kilogram pig is VND3.2 million (US$190), while basic investment costs are at least VND3.4 million ($202) without counting electricity, water and medicine expenses. But losses were even worse when there were epidemics,” Nghia said, referring to the foot-and-mouth and blue ear diseases that hit the country earlier this year.

Chairman of the Farmers’ Association of Soc Trang Province, Lam Quoc Cuong, said most households raising a few pigs had scrapped their business, while many small farms had halted operations altogether.

Cuong said he had sold his stock of 20 pigs for meat three months ago and was waiting for pork prices to climb before resuming pig-raising. Farmer Doan Thi Tuoi from Vinh Long Province said she and other farmers having been dealing with losses after pork prices dropped to VND28,000 ($1.66) per kilogram around a month ago.

“Farmers can only earn profits if pork is at least VND40,000 ($2.37) per kilogram,” she said.

And as for chicken.....

Meanwhile, the outbreak of bird flu earlier this year coupled with the recent Chinese eggs’ melamine scandal have drastically reduced consumption of chicken.

Poultry farmers are seeing their business undercut by high investment costs and low prices due to growing competition from imported meat.

Farmer Nguyen Phuc Den from Vinh Long Province said he has shifted to raising fish and 500 chickens for meat while waiting for improved market conditions.

“Chicken’s droppings are being used as fish food and this has helped keep the farm above water,” he said. “Several epidemics have ravaged chicken farms over the past five years and the hike in animal feed prices this year has hit farmers’ pockets hard.”

The number of chickens raised at Thuan Phat Chicken Farmers’ Cooperative in Vinh Long Province’s Vung Liem District has dropped to around 7,500 from 25,000.

“We don’t dare to raise more birds because it would cause severe losses,” said the cooperative chairman, who calculated the present loss to be more than VND100,000 ($6) per 100 chickens.

In late October, the toxic industrial chemical melamine, used to make plastic, was detected in eggs imported from China to Hong Kong. However, local inspectors have announced they have yet to find any eggs contaminated with melamine in Vietnam.

Farmer Nguyen Thi Ngoc Suong from Tien Giang Province who has a stock of 2,000 hens said she only managed to sell half of her eggs after the melamine scandal broke.

“Egg prices went down by VND300-400 to around VND1,100-1,200 per egg,” she said. The lowering of meat import tariffs last August, as part of measures to combat inflation, has also threatened to bankrupt domestic farmers.

Vietnam is required by the World Trade Organization to cut its import tax on poultry and pork to 15 and 25 percent by 2012.

But the tax was drastically reduced to 12 and 20 percent respectively last August, with imported meat now flooding the market as a consequence.

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