September 29, 2015
Why Vietnam can't export meat
For a relatively small country having a total area of just around 331,210 square kilometers (127,881 sq miles), or almost the size of Germany, Vietnam has some 328 million poultry heads and 27 million pigs (as of October 2014), ranking second in the world in the number of ducks, fourth for pigs, sixth for buffaloes and 13th for cows (according to the UN Food and Agriculture Organisation, based on 2010 data).
In short, Vietnam's livestock and poultry herd is the second-highest in Southeast Asia and among the 10-largest in the world.
With a population of around 90.5 million as of last year, Vietnam should have more meat than it can consume and yet, Vietnam is not as big a meat exporter as it is a big importer.
According to the General Department of Customs, as reported by news site vietnamnet.vn, Vietnam's total meat export last year was valued at less than $21 million, down 2.4% from the previous year, while it imported more than $194 million worth of meat.
Agriculture and Rural Development Minister Cao Duc Phat asked before a conference last year how come Vietnam could not export meat despite its big herd of cattle and poultry.
Nguyen Thanh Son, director of the Institute of Animal Husbandry, has provided one of the answers: Vietnam still has to completely eradicate diseases such as avian influenza and foot-and-mouth disease. He stressed that the prerequisite set by many meat-importing countries is that the country of origin must be disease-free.
Tong Xuan Chinh, deputy director of the livestock department, which is under the Ministry of Agriculture and Rural Development, has another answer: Vietnam is not exactly ready to meet the requirements of veterinary safety.
He related that a Russian trade delegation recently went to Vietnam to seek supplies of pork but that it found the country did not fully meet the team's veterinary-safety criteria. The team moved to Thailand, instead, he added.