Vietnam to chop pork imports in mission to save pig farmers' bacon

By Ho Binh Minh   May 3, 2017 | 02:27 pm GMT+7
Vietnam to chop pork imports in mission to save pig farmers' bacon
Pork on sale at a market in Ho Chi Minh City. Vietnam plans to cut pork imports and increase exports to save pig farmers. Photo by VnExpress/Thi Ha

Soldiers and policemen are going to be finding a lot more pork on the menu.

Vietnam plans to cut pork imports and expand export markets for the meat as part of an unprecedented nationwide campaign to rescue pig farmers, the government said.

Domestic prices have halved since late 2016, hitting VND23,000-25,000 (around $1) per kilogram in recent weeks. China, the world's biggest pork consumer, recently stopped imports of live pigs across its border with Vietnam, sending prices plunging to record lows, the Ministry of Industry and Trade said last week.

In May 2016, the ministry warned of increasing illegal live pig exports to China via sub-border gates and paths.

"Farmers have been expanding their herds for export to China despite warnings from ministry, and this has caused the pork supplies to exceed domestic demand," the ministry said in a statement on April 28.

Vietnam's pig herd rose nearly 5 percent last year from 2015 to an estimated 29.08 million, and by the end of March 2017 the number had edged up by at least 1.5 percent, based on government data.

The trade ministry estimates that Vietnam will face a surplus of 200,000 tons of pork this year. It said it would ask the agriculture ministry to help expand exports of live pigs and pork to China, the Philippines and Singapore.

Vietnam imported nearly 7,800 tons of pork between January 1 and March 15, up 15.8 percent from on-year, after importing 39,400 tons in the whole of 2016, Vietnam Customs said. 

Deputy Prime Minister Trinh Dinh Dung has agreed to put a ban on the import for re-export of pork and frozen pork by-products via sub-border gates, the government said in a statement on Friday following a meeting to discuss the pork surplus.

The trade ministry will tighten control of pork imports to keep it from rising, the agriculture ministry said.

Agriculture Minister Nguyen Xuan Cuong has appealed to Vietnamese consumers to prioritize domestic pork.

Officials from the Ministry of Defense and Ministry of Public Security said the army and the police were ready to help the farmers out by consuming more pork, the government statement said.

The government has asked the central bank to extend loan repayments for farmers and companies involved in the pork trade.

In response, Vietnamese lender Lien Viet Post Bank is offering one-year loans for farmers and pork processors at 2 percent below market rates, an executive from the bank said on Monday.

Authorities in major pork producer Dong Nai Province have launched a program to buy pork directly from farmers at higher prices and sell to consumers at prices below market value, the provincial Agriculture Department said on Sunday.