|Tran Van Dat of the Mekong Delta's Long An Province at his farm. He says forming a co-operative with other farmers and selling higher quality milk to Dutch company FrieslandCampina fetches higher prices for them. — VNS Photo Xuan Huong
HCM CITY (VNS)— Dairy farming may have helped improve incomes for many farmers but needs to become more efficient to grow sustainably, experts have said.
Ho Mong Hai, deputy head of the Animal Husbandry Department's HCM City office, said as living standards go up, there is increasing demand for milk and dairy products.
"But milk output meets only about 30 per cent of the domestic demand," he told Viet Nam News, adding that " the country imports large quantities of milk and dairy products."
Meanwhile, the cow-breeding industry is facing challenges that threaten its sustainable development, he said.
They include shortage of experience among farmers, lack of good animal strains, insufficient land for raising cattle and foraging, and poor veterinary services, he said.
Luu Van Tan, head of Dutch dairy company FrieslandCampina Viet Nam's Dairy Farming Development Department, said another problem is that more than 90 per cent of dairy farms are of small scale, which results in low productivity and quality and high costs.
FrieslandCampina has a US$13 million programme since 1995 under which it established a milk purchase system by signing contracts with farmers, provided them regular technical support and training in dairy farming, and set up a quality control system for milk.
To encourage farmers to pay attention to milk quality, the company always bases its purchase price on quality, Tan said.
Recently the programme helped small farmers form small groups to reduce costs and since higher volumes fetched higher prices, he said.
Tran Van Dat of Duc Lap Ha commune in southern Long An Province's Duc Hoa District said he joined a group of five members two years ago and enjoys higher prices from the company.
"The company also connects forage distributors and farmer groups so that the latter can buy cattle feed at cheaper prices than from agents."
Dat earns a profit of VND30 million (US$1,420) a month from his herd of 30 cows, which produces 160-200 kilos of milk every day.
Le Van Mong of Tan An Hoi commune in HCM City's Cu Chi District said his co-operative has 20 members with 200 cows that produce 850-900 kilos of milk a day.
Thanks to the programme, the incomes of small farmers in the group have significantly improved, he said.
There are more than 4,000 farmers in the programme who supply around 240 tonnes of fresh milk every day. Their milk quality has improved significantly over the years, and contain no antibiotics residues or additives.
Tan said the company plans to expand the model to other provinces and co-operate with authorities to develop dairy projects to increase the country's milk supply.
Hai said a Government dairy development plan has set a target of meeting 38 per cent of milk demand domestically by 2020.
The country had 166,990 heads of milch cattle last year, producing 382,000 tonnes of milk.
"Milk production has grown at an annual rate of around 12 per cent, but domestic demand has increased even faster," Hai told Viet Nam News. — VNS