Pig farmers in Vietnam say they are operating at a loss amid falling domestic pork prices caused by China’s decision to cut imports and have called on the government to renegotiate a trade deal with Beijing in a bid to pull their industry out of a tailspin.
China stopped buying live pigs from Vietnam in November, citing quality concerns, hurting farmers who had traditionally relied on the neighboring country as their largest export market. The move has led to an oversupply of pigs in Vietnam and driven down the cost of pork.
Pig farming in Vietnam has also been hit by an increase in cheap meat from abroad, with around 7,800 metric tons of pork imported into Vietnam in the year leading up to March 15—a nearly 16 percent increase in volume, a recent report by the official Tuoi Tre News said, citing customs data.
Vietnam has seen the price of pork fall from around 40,000 dong (U.S. $1.76) per kilogram (2.2 pounds) to as low as 20,000 dong (U.S. $0.88) in recent months, and with the country’s pork production expected to surpass 3.7 metric tons in 2017—an annual increase of 3.2 percent—there is no end in sight to the market woes.
On Tuesday, a pig farmer surnamed Hoa told RFA’s Vietnamese Service that she pays 1.6 million dong (U.S. $70) for each pig she buys and, after accounting for the cost of their feed and other upkeep, must sell pork for at least 33,000 dong (U.S. $1.45) per kilogram just to break even.
“I have to sell at 35,000-37,000 dong (U.S. $1.54-1.63) per kilogram if I want to make a profit,” she said, adding that she is more likely to get 20,000-22,000 dong (U.S. $0.88-0.97) per kilogram and only 14,000-16,000 dong (U.S. $0.62-0.70) for bad quality pigs.
“The pig farmers are having to sell everything off. We want the government to negotiate with China or find a way for us to sell pigs [at a reasonable price].”
Ly Hong Vinh, another farmer who owns more than 500 pigs, told RFA that the state of the market had destroyed his livelihood and said he is “about to go underwater” financially.
“I have to borrow money from the bank and my relatives, but because I keep borrowing, they don’t want to lend me money anymore,” he said.
“I’ve lost a lot. Regardless of whether I sell the pigs or keep them, I will still lose.”
Tong Xuan Chinh, vice director of the Animal Husbandry Department at the Ministry of Agriculture and Rural Development (MARD), said the government has taken steps to alleviate the pressure on Vietnam’s pig farmers.
“We must make use of all resources from the government to help the farmers during this crisis,” he told RFA.
“We have asked entrepreneurs to reduce prices of animal feed. We also asked slaughterhouses and foodstuff companies to buy more pigs from farmers.”
Last week, MARD minister Nguyen Xuan Cuong called on large animal husbandry businesses to increase their purchase of pigs and keep them in frozen storage to help farmers reduce inventory and slow the drop in pork prices, according to a report by the official Vietnam News Service.
Noting that the government had helped their industry turn a profit over the past two decades, he urged the firms to take responsibility for the farmers’ plight, asking them to reduce the price of breeding pigs, feed and veterinary medicine, the report said.
Cuong has also suggested that the government direct banks and credit institutions to cancel the debts of pig breeders, and people selling animal feed to help them recover their losses.
At the meeting, representatives of the businesses proposed that the ministry temporarily stop importing pork to stabilize the domestic market.
Also last week, deputy Agriculture Minister Vu Van Tam pledged that his ministry would work with its counterpart in Beijing to resume exports to China.
Reported by Lan Huong for RFA’s Vietnamese Service. Translated by Viet Ha. Written in English by Joshua Lipes.