New challenges require livestock overhaul

Viet Nam's livestock sector needs to prepare for several trade agreements expected to create huge challenges for farmers and enterprises.

A poultry farm run by a household in Yen Mo District, Ninh Binh Province. Viet Nam's livestock sector expects several trade agreements to pose huge challenges for farmers. — VNA/VNS Photo Dinh Hue

This was the subject of meeting by Government officials and experts about restructuring the sector in the final months of the year in Ha Noi on Thursday.

Despite meat productivity increasing by at least four per cent this year compared to 2013, many obstacles remain unresolved.

The biggest are productivity and the cost of meat. Viet Nam produces much less meat than other countries, but it is also more expensive.

"We have the second largest number of farm ducks in the world and the fifth biggest number of pigs, yet productivity is nowhere close to the international average," said the Minister of Agriculture and Rural Development, Cao Duc Phat, at the meeting.

"The fear is that when the trade agreements come into effect and the tariff rate is brought down to zero, imported meat products will instantly flood our market," he added.

One of another three major challenges threatening domestic animal raising include the loose co-operation between authorities, enterprises and farmers in the production chain, said National Institute of Animal Sciences Director Nguyen Thanh Son.

"Antibiotics and growth stimulants are still found in domestic meat, limit the chances of exporting meat products," Son added.

The overly complicated red tape was also blamed for the sluggish development of the breeding sector.

Recently, a report that farmers had to pay up to 14 different kinds of taxes to raise a single chicken made the headlines throughout Viet Nam.

The taxes cover quarantine work on the chickens and even on the trucks that deliver the birds. There are also taxes on the number of eggs laid and on the meat produced.

"Such red tape is very disturbing to the development of the sector," Son said.

To solve all those challenges, the livestock sector should restructure to produce competitive, high-quality products for the global market, said Minister Phat.

He added that the restructuring should begin with a change of mindset.

The chairman of the Viet Nam Animal Feed Association, Le Ba Lich, agreed, adding that authorities at all levels still thought the breeding sector was meant to serve domestic demand only.

"This mindset should be changed, especially when Viet Nam is signing numerous free-trade agreements," Lich added.

The Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) and the ASEAN Free Trade Area (AFTA) are trade pacts that aim to fully eliminate tariffs on many imported goods, including those from Viet Nam.

"If the husbandry sector wants to join the global stage following the signing of these agreements, its products have to compete in quality and price," said Lich.

Deputy Minister of Agriculture and Rural Development Vu Van Tam suggested that the Department of Livestock (DoL) and the Department of Animal Health (DoAH) be more active in promoting development of the sector.

He said DoL had to build a market database for farmers and enterprises so that they make timely adjustments to their production.

Meanwhile, the DoAH was asked to make efforts not only in disease prevention in livestock, but also in reducing farming costs.

Meanwhile, Lich criticised the Ministry of Agriculture and Rural Development for being ignorant about reality.

"It kept repeating that enterprises should be the leading force in reconstruction, yet no Vietnamese enterprise was strong enough to do this," Lich said.

He said that most domestic enterprises in the breeding sector had the capital of only about VND5 billion (US$227,000) compared to the $100 million animal feed factory backed by a foreign company in Hai Duong.

Additionally, a lack of co-operation in the production chain was long acknowledged by the Ministry, yet the question of how to further link parts of the chain remained unanswered.

"The Ministry should research the mechanisms to promote co-ordination between production and distribution," Lich said.


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