No matter how small or large their farming scales are, all industry insiders say raising pig is similar to gambling: they sink a huge sum of money into, and only the god of luck knows whether they can recoup the investment.
Le Van Me, director of Phu Son Co in the southern province of Dong Nai, says pig raisers are all alone in the struggle to maintain the business.
“Prices just go up and down, while epidemics constantly lurk around – it’s like farmers will have to gamble forever,” says Me.
The Vietnamese animal husbandry industry lacks an adequate guideline for development, and there are three main culprits for its gloomy status, according to experts.
Breeder pigs, feeds, and veterinary issues -- the three backbones of the industry -- have proved problematic in the country, experts said.
Associate Professor and Doctor Le Van Kinh from the Vietnam Agricultural Technologies Institute, says Vietnamese breeder pigs are of poor quality, which increases cost price for raising pigs.
“And consequently, farmers will suffer losses when pork prices slump,” adds Kinh.
Meanwhile, figures from the Vietnam Husbandry Association show that the country has to import as much as 80 percent of raw materials for animal feed manufacturing, which costs a massive US$3 billion a year.
Again, the heavy reliance on imported materials results in higher expenses for pig raisers.
“In other countries, feeds only account for 50 to 55 percent of the cost price, while the figure is 75 percent in Vietnam,” says Chung Kim, a pig raising tycoon in the southern Binh Duong Province.
Regarding disease management, Nguyen Dien Tuong, director of the Dong Nai Agricultural Livestock Product JSC (Dolico), says the government has been deploying a wrong approach to controlling epidemics.
“Several diseases break out in Dong Nai every year, but the government only begins to fight back the epidemics after they have already broken out,” says Tuong.
“While prevention is better than cure, the government just follows a reverse procedure.”
And yet local pig farmers are also under other threats: being invaded by imported meats, and international companies.
Foreign-invested players such as CP of Thailand, Japfa of Indonesia, and Emivest from Malaysia have almost taken control of the domestic chicken and egg markets, and are now eyeing the pig raising sector.
The sows raised by the aforementioned companies now account for 10 percent of the country’s herd, and the figure has been sharply rising.
“The foreign businesses are focusing investment in the south and the area will soon suffer a pork surplus, as has been the case with chickens,” warns Kim.
Meanwhile, Tuong of Dolico says the lack of a technical barrier for imported meats is forcing domestic pork businesses closer to the brink of bankruptcy.
“Some countries said they are willing to import our meats, as long as we can pass their technical barriers like our farm has not caught any foot-and-mouth diseases over the last 10 years,” says Tuong.
“Why are there no such standards for imported meats in Vietnam?”