|Animal feed bags are unloaded at the Phu Gia Agriculture Product Joint Stock Company in Thanh Hoa Province. Last year, the country spent $3 billion on imported animal feed. — VNA/VNS Photo Danh Lam
HCM CITY (VNS)— In 2013, Viet Nam imported US$4 billion worth of animal feed and other major raw materials because its agricultural land has been producing rice rather than animal feed for years.
The country exported $3 billion worth of rice in the same year.
With 1,000 pigs on his farm, Tran Quang Trung in Thong Nhat District, the southern province of Dong Nai, uses two tonnes of animal feed each day, and 80 per cent of it is imported.
"I have to import 100 per cent of the soybeans and acid amine, but half of the maize grains and fish paste are bought from the domestic market," he said.
Trung's farm is typical of the Vietnamese animal husbandry industry, where 70 per cent of animal food is imported.
Last year, the country spent $3 billion on imported animal feed and another $1 billion on raw materials including maize, soybeans and wheat for animal feed.
Viet Nam last year imported 1.4 million tonnes of soybeans, worth $834 million; 2.26 million tonnes of maize, worth $690 million; and 1.7 million tonnes of wheat, worth $584 million, which was a significant increase from 2012.
In January this year, 582,000 tonnes of maize, worth $150 million, were imported, a six-fold increase in quality and 4.6 times the value compared with the same period last year.
"Viet Nam only produces rice bran and cassava, and for the rest, we depend on imported animal feed," Pham Duc Binh, vice chairman of the Viet Nam Animal Food Association, told Tuoi Tre (Youth) newspaper.
"This is the result of a deviation from agricultural production that has been underway for a long time. Viet Nam is an agricultural nation, but almost 100 per cent of the feed for pigs and chickens must be imported. There is no grassland for grazing cows, so milk and beef must also be imported," Le Ba Lich, chairman of the association, stated.
Animal feed has been imported for many years, but the authorities have yet to find a solution, despite the fact that Viet Nam has significant potential for producing these products.
Lich suggested that Viet Nam should make a master plan for part of the country that will focus solely on producing raw materials for animal feed. Low-yield rice plots could be converted to cultivate maize and soybeans, which are the most important feed grains.
Viet Nam has focused all its resources on developing rice; therefore, its maize and soybean capacity is very low and cannot compete, according to Dr Henry T. Nguyen, director of the US-based Missouri University's National Soybean Biotechnology Research Centre.
But there is an opportunity for Viet Nam to improve the situation if the country invests in planting maize and soybean hybrids.
"From a country that once suffered widespread starvation, Viet Nam has become one of the world's leading rice exporters. It could do the same again with soybeans and maize," he added. — VNS