As prices rise, Vietnamese fork out less for pork

By Thien Ngan   July 3, 2022 | 06:18 am PT
As prices rise, Vietnamese fork out less for pork
A man buys pork at a wet market in HCMC, June 2022. Photo by VnExpress/Quynh Tran
Vietnamese families have been consuming less pork in recent months as prices increased, switching to other sources of protein like chicken and eggs.

Ngoc Thao from HCMC, 32, said that one kilogram of bacon now costs between VND150,000-180,000 ($6.43-7.72), depending on whether it is purchased at a traditional wet market or a supermarket.

Cheaper cuts of pork, such as cutlet and thigh, range from VND100,000-130,000 per kilogram, which is twice or thrice the price of chicken.

"The prices of vegetables, spices and many other things have skyrocketed, but my salary remains unchanged, so I must cut back on my spending on expensive stuff," she said, sighing.

"Now our family has meat only for one or two meals per week."

A VnExpress survey of livestock farms at the end of June found that the price of live pigs had crossed VND60,000 per kg, a slight increase from previous days.

The majority of farmers said the price has increased because the cost of animal feed has increased. Prices of new born pigs have also increased by 20 percent compared to two months ago.

According to the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD), the majority of Vietnamese people have been eating less pork, like Thao’s family.

From 2016-2018, Vietnam had one of the highest average pork consumption rates in the world at 30-31 kg per person per year. However, during the first two years of the pandemic, this fell to 26 kg.

Data from Ipsos, a multinational market research firm based in France, showed similar results by compiling statistics on the entire supply of cattle and poultry farms in 10 key livestock provinces and cities, in conjunction with official import and export volume, quotas, and meat products.

It calculated that each Vietnamese person used to consume about 30 kg of pork per year, but by 2021, this had dropped to 23.5 kg.

According to Phong Quach, director of Ipsos Vietnam, per capita meat consumption in Vietnam has been increasing as living standards improve, and consumers have more meat sources to choose from.

He said there were three reasons why pork was no longer the top priority.

First, the African swine fever got people worried and also severely impacted global supply.

Second, the price of pork kept rising sharply, albeit intermittently, as input costs like that of logistics rose significantly.

Third, people were cutting back on spending in the post-Covid period and seeking cheaper animal protein sources than pork.

For several years now, per capita consumption of poultry (primarily chicken) has increased rapidly – from 12 kg in 2016 to 20 kg now.

Seafood has surpassed pork as the most important source of protein for Vietnamese people, accounting for per capita consumption of 29 kg per year.

Per capita consumption of beef, which is more expensive than other meat, has increased slightly from 4.3 kg to 5 kg per year.

The VNDirect Securities Company said in a meat industry analysis published at the end of May: "We believe that demand for meat is likely to increase when kids are on their summer break while restaurants and industrial kitchens continue to consume at the same rate as the first quarter of this year."

Quach said the fact that some local pig farms have sold their complete stock after the African swine fever outbreak will further decrease supply and increase prices in the coming months.

The price of live pigs for slaughter is expected to remain at above VND60,000 per kg, higher than the VND51,000-54,000 range recorded between October 2021 and April 2022.

The pressure to balance spending amidst rising prices makes short-term consumption recovery difficult, market observers say. But they add that despite the current situation, the pork market has a lot of room for future growth.

According to the CEO of a publicly traded food company, the pork market is worth about $10 billion, but 90 percent of the products sold are unbranded.

Meanwhile, consumers are becoming more health-conscious, and demand for branded, traceable meat products will rise once the price storm passes.

According to the OECD, each Vietnamese person will consume approximately 27.7 kg of pork by 2023, a 7 percent increase over last year.

By 2029, this figure could rise to 32.7 kg, higher than the pre-pandemic period, and surpass South Korea and China to take the lead in global per capita consumption.

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