Hoang Thanh Van, Head of the Livestock Department under the Ministry of Agriculture and Rural Development, talked to Viet Nam News about the future of the industry.
The domestic livestock industry encountered lots of difficulties in 2013. What is your overall assessment?
In general, the industry did manage to grow by about four per cent last year. We managed to control some disease outbreaks and believe that domestic livestock products are of high quality, whether they are raised by households or enterprises.
I believe the biggest difficulty the industry faces has to do with the lack of coordination between producers and the market to make sure that the supply chain is stable. The producers now still have to rely on middlemen who make them sell their products at lower prices. Also, weather conditions in 2013 were not very favourable, discouraging livestock farmers from expanding operations. The possibility of more disease outbreaks has been a matter of concern for many farmers.
Do we have enough livestock supply for the Tet holiday?
Based on reports from localities nation-wide, I believe we have enough stock for the holiday. We need market watchdogs to control smuggling so that supply and prices can be stabilised.
In the coming time, as we approach the holiday, there can be a slight increase in meat prices but it will not be a sudden, steep one. We want livestock farmers to benefit, but we also don't want to hurt the consumers.
You've said that the domestic livestock industry is heading in the direction of biosafety. How will this be manifest in 2014?
The livestock industry is working on two important aspects: piloting organic livestock and VietGap standards. In organic livestock farming, the use of antibiotics, growth hormones, drugs, chemicals and pesticides will be avoided. However, organic livestock farming has only been maintained on a pilot basis in Viet Nam and we will monitor this to see whether it's possible to expand it further in the future.
When Viet Nam signs the Trans-Pacific Partnership later this year, what are the difficulties that our livestock industry will face?
This means we have to sell at prices matching imported meat, and right now, some of our products are not competitive enough. This can pose a major challenge for the industry. We need to do more research, improve our breeds as well as quality of quality of cattle feed.
In the coming time, we will definitely have to focus on restructuring the industry, which means improving breeding practices at both household and large-scale farms, improving technical capacity as well as the legal framework under which the industry operates.
We want to encourage businesses and researchers to be more careful in choosing breeds to farm. They should import quality breeds for cross-breeding, so that the farms can produce quality products that meet our consumption needs.
We also need to improve the local livestock supply chain and facilitate greater co-operation between small farms so that they can benefit from economies of scale.
When Viet Nam signs the TPP, the livestock industry must adapt, otherwise it will lose out. When taxes are reduced, Viet Nam will need to put up technical barriers so that the local industry can exploit its advantages including consumers' preference for fresh meat over frozen products.
So you are saying that when the TPP is signed, we have to worry about imported products taking over the domestic market?
Obviously, imported products like beef and milk will flood the market in the wake of Viet Nam signing the TPP. We should be prepared to exploit advantages we have and increase our competitiveness, focusing on products like chicken, pork and duck.
We can also develop our capacity to produce beef. We have about 7-8 million heads of cattle raised for purpose right now, but the demand is much higher. — VNS