HA NOI — Most small-farm pig producers, roughly defined as those raising 10 or fewer animals near their village households, could remain competitive if they continued to exploit their advantages over larger farms.
These advantages, according to the outcome of a three-year research project, were the low labour costs and the ability to supply freshly slaughtered meat, which is still preferred by most Vietnamese diners over chilled or frozen meat from bigger piggeries.
The research project was run by the Kenyan-based International Livestock Research Institute and funded by the Australian Centre for International Agricultural Research.
The centre's representative in Viet Nam, Geoff Morris, said that smallholder pig producers played an important role in the economy as they supplied about 80 per cent of Viet Nam's pork.
The project set out to identify policies that could help these farmers raise their incomes and remain competitive in the face of growing imports and official encouragement for larger piggeries.
Dr Lucy Lapar from the institute said that feed accounted for two-thirds of production costs at small piggeries, much lower than at bigger farms.
This was because smaller operators often used by-products from their own crops and let their pigs forage. Bigger operators were forced to use more expensive industrially processed foods.
As household-based pork sold from VND4,000-VND15,000 (US$0.21-0.28) per kilo, it generated enough profits to provide VND22,000 ($1.5) daily for household labour, especially those who would otherwise probably not be gainfully employed, particularly women, who usually had to attend to household chores and children.
As part of the project, a consumer survey was conducted of 1,650 households to investigate the demand for pork.
It indicated that it accounts for 40 per cent of those householders' expenditure on meat. Respondents also indicated they preferred fresh pork to chilled or processed meat.
And the good news was that smallholder pig producers were highly competitive in producing fresh pork, said Dr Lapar.
However, compared to large-scale producers, small producers often had to deal with poor genetic stock, low quality feed, animal health problems, insufficient market information and lack of policy support.
Pham Van Duy from the Agriculture and Rural Development Ministry's Livestock Department said about four million households were presently raising pigs.
However, he said it would be difficult for them to continue to meet the growing demand for pork in both quantity and quality.
According to the General Statistics Office, in 2009, Viet Nam had 27.6 million pigs, a growth rate of about 3 per cent a year. Pork sales had also steadily increased from 1.5 million tonnes in 2001 to 2.9 million in 2009.
The smallholder pig research project was carried out in Ha Noi, HCM City and six provinces nationwide from 2003 to March 2010. — VNS