(VOV) - Meat and poultry exports have remained weak over the past five years even though Vietnam’s farmers have been among the largest producers in Asia, according to official statistics of the Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO).
FAO figures released in 2010 showed Vietnam ranked second in the world in terms of the number of ducks, fourth for pigs, sixth for water buffalo and 13th for head of cattle. In the Asian region, Vietnam stood fourth after China, India and Indonesia.
The Department of Livestock Production (DLP) under the Ministry of Agriculture and Rural Development (MARD) in turn estimated that as of October 2014 Vietnam producers had roughly 328 million chickens and ducks and nearly 27 million pigs.
However, statistics of the General Department of Customs showed meat exports were a paltry US$21 million in 2014, down 2.4% against 2013. Meanwhile, meat imports were more than nine fold that amount, exceeding US$194 million.
“Vietnam primarily exports pork to China via border gates and the export figures are highly volatile,” said Chairman Nguyen Tri Cong, of the Dong Nai Livestock Association.
Nai said the volume of pork exports is much too low considering the vast Chinese market and underscored the point that very little beef, chicken or duck products are exported to China.
Previously, only the US Australia, Brazil and Republic of Korea (RoK) sold meat and poultry in Vietnam. However, the list of meat exporters to Vietnam has grown and now also includes Russia, France, Canada, Poland and the EU.
At a husbandry conference last year, Minister Cao Duc Phat of MARD asked provinces, exporters, producers and livestock farmers to resolve the problems associated with farm hygiene to get Vietnam’s meat and poultry exports up to speed.
Since then the topic of farm hygiene has been the subject of many conferences and workshops throughout the nation and MARD has begun implementing a pilot program for the period 2014-2018 focused on solving it.
The pilot program is being carried out in seven localities that are considered the major suppliers of meat and poultry products for Hanoi and Ho Chi Minh City, according to a MARD spokesperson.
Director Nguyen Thanh Son of the National Institute of Animal Husbandry recently underscored the point that if Vietnam fails to establish hygienic farming areas to protect livestock and poultry from disease, foreign markets will remain closed for exports.
Lastly, Deputy Head Tong Xuan Chinh of the DLP said Russian meatpackers recently visited Vietnam to find suppliers of pork but because the farms failed to meet with hygiene requirements the contract was awarded to Thai producers.
The Southeast Livestock Association has requested MARD to issue stringent health regulations and biosecurity measures to help ensure food safety and serve as the key to unlock the potential of meat and poultry exports.