Covid-19 induced glut guts Hai Duong farmers

By Phuong Anh, Hong Chau   February 21, 2021 | 04:53 pm PT
Covid-19 induced glut guts Hai Duong farmers
Hai Duong Province residents pass through a check point before entering a wet market on February 17, 2021. Photo by VnExpress/Linh Bui.
As eggs, fish and other produce remain unshipped and unsold in abundance, Hai Duong farmers are gutted by the province’s Covid-19 hotspot status.

Not a single egg sold while her chickens lay more than 10,000 eggs a day, Do Thi Dung is at a loss and in despair.

Expressing the misery of farmers at the epicenter of Vietnam's latest Covid-19 outbreak, she said: "I have not been able to sell any eggs since the beginning of this year, even as my farm overflows with them."

Dung's poultry farm has 18,000 chickens, of which 13,000 are in their reproductive period, laying 10,000 eggs each day.

She recalled that on the second day of Tet (Lunar New Year) last year, traders had flocked to her farm to pick up orders and ship them out to other provinces.

"Now I struggle to sell a single egg." Dung is worried sick that her hopes of reopening her business soon will not be realized. "It was only last Wednesday that I was able to sell a few thousand eggs."

She said the sale happened because egg farms in other localities decided to purchase 30,000 eggs from chicken farmers in Hai Duong. She was given priority for selling nearly 20,000 eggs since other farmers in the province sympathized with her after she sustained an injury and has had to stay at home since the beginning of this year.

Each "rescue" egg was priced at VND800 ($0.03) per unit, VND100 lower than the current market price. Her production cost for each chicken egg is VND1,400.

"I just hope the pandemic will be contained quickly so I can start working and selling again soon. I can't earn a living if the virus keeps resurfacing," she said. Dung said she has continued working and is losing up to VND15 million ($652) a day.

Luc Van Nhan, Chairman of the Chi Linh Town Chicken Association, said there are nearly one million chickens in the town. Chicken prices have also fallen by nearly VND10,000 per kg due low demand, he added.

"The residents of Chi Linh raised chickens to sell for Tet, but due to the recent Covid-19 resurgence there are many left in stock," he said.

In fact, the number of chickens raised this year has decreased by 20 percent compared to the previous year. The longer the farmers have to care for the chicken, the greater the loss for farmers.

Apart from reduced demand, the travel restrictions currently in place are a great challenge for livestock farmers.

Tran Van Thien, a fish farmer in the province’s Nam Sach District, said that before the outbreak, more than 50 vehicles entered the area every day to pick up orders. This number has dropped to a just a couple since.

He said he was stuck with dozens of tanks of red tilapias and hemibagrus that he has raised.

"It is very difficult for me to go feed the fish, let alone transport them," Thien said, adding that a cargo truck must go through three to four quarantine checkpoints to get in and out of the province.

"If the truck is blocked during shipping, I might have to dump all my fish. If trucks transporting other products can't get out, they can return the order. But that won't work with fish."

Fish like red tilapias and hemibagrus are mainly consumed outside the province because these are considered specialties and delicacies, Thien explained.

Ta Van Hung, director of the Thang Long Fishery Cooperative in Hai Duong's Kinh Mon District, said: "Farmers are not even bothering to harvest the fish since they can't travel and find buyers."

He added that people were forced to accept losses.

Enjoying a little more luck, Nguyen Manh Hung, director of Kien Giang Agricultural Seed Export Joint Stock Company in Cam Giang District, said: "My business is fine for the moment since we are suppliers for the northern supermarkets system, although the testing time and transport procedures are still time consuming."

He said there were still large quantities of vegetables and fruits in Hai Duong and their prices have dropped down to one third of the original market price.

Storing produce and preserving them in warehouses was a temporary solution, Hung said, calling for travel restrictions to be lifted soon.

Despite many challenges, farmers and businesses agree that the tightening travel restrictions to neighboring localities is the only way to curb Covid-19 infections and return to normal.

The latest outbreak has reached 13 cities and provinces since January 28, with 791 cases recorded to date. Hai Duong remains the biggest hotspot with 611 cases.

The province imposed a 15-day social distancing campaign last Tuesday, but it has been urged to extend the period, given the rising number of cases.

Hung agreed that tough action was needed at this time. "I think that Hai Phong has set a great example in managing to stop infections with strict measures. We need to do the same and quickly stop the spread Covid-19 so people can resume living normally again."

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