June 1, 2011


Vietnamese state management agencies disagree on pork imports



Vietnam's Ministry of Industry and Trade (MOIT) has proposed to import 100,000 tonnes of pork, while the Ministry of Agriculture and Rural Development (MARD) believes that there's no need to import meat.


MOIT has proposed to import pork because it believes the imports would help ease the current shortage which has pushed the prices up to levels unbearable for consumers. Meanwhile, MARD believes that the domestic supply is big enough to meet the demand. It has expressed the worry that consumers would, once again, say "no" to pork because of the blue-ear pig epidemic.


The survey conducted by MARD showed that at the Long Bien wholesale market in Hanoi, pork is selling at VND91,000-VND106,000 (US$4.42-US$5.15) per kilo, which is an increase of 25-27% in comparison with Tet holiday.


The Minh Hien poultry and animal slaughtering factory in Hanoi, which has the designed capacity of 5000 fowls and 1000 pigs a day, has reported that very few people come here these days to purchase pork for reselling.


The representative of the factory said that the slaughtering costs are relatively high because of the heavy investments on the factory's equipment. Therefore, though the State asks to sell products at low prices to stabilise the market, it cannot slash the sale prices any further, or it will incur losses.


Meanwhile, livestock farms cannot enjoy preferences to implement the duty of stabilising the market. This means that the State assigns the duty of stabilising the prices to slaughtering workshops, not to breeders.


MOIT believes that it is necessary to import pork, because the prices have become overly high. The increasingly high food prices, plus the increasing petroleum prices and basic wage increases have all put a hard pressure on the people. Farms now sell pork at VND60,000-VND62,000 (US$2.92-US$3.01) per kilo of live weight.


Pork prices have been increasing because one month ago, small merchants rushed to collect pork from southern provinces and carry them to the north for sale to China, in order to make profits. This has led to the sharp fall in the supply. Also, the epidemic, plus the increasingly high feed prices have forced farmers to raise the prices.


It is estimated that Vietnam will need 2.9 million tonnes of meat of different kinds this year, an increase of 6.5-7% over 2010. Therefore, MOIT has proposed to import 100,000 tonnes of pork.


Nevertheless, MARD believes that the domestic supply can meet the domestic demand.


The ministry has admitted the pork shortage, but it said the shortage is not worrying. The total output of pork in 2011 would still reach 3.3 million tonnes of live weight. As the epidemic has been driven back, farmers would resume the farming, which would make the supply more profuse towards the year end.


MOIT is the agency which takes the responsibility of balancing the supply and demand of essential goods in order to stabilise the domestic market. The issue of whether to import pork will still be discussed by the two ministries, and for the time being, consumers have to buy food at overly high prices.


As the blue-ear pig epidemic is threatened to break out again, worries have been raised that consumers would turn their backs to pork like they did in 2010. In some localities, farmers rushed to sell pigs out after hearing about the epidemic.


If the epidemic cannot be extinguished soon, farmers would continue leaving farms idle, and the pork prices would continue rising.

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