Pressed by traders, pig farmers use banned substances to fatten up profits

By Duy Tran, Vuong Duc Anh, Lam Le   April 20, 2016 | 05:15 pm PT
Pressed by traders, pig farmers use banned substances to fatten up profits
A livestock association in Dong Nai province has discovered that many farmers are using banned substances to raise their pigs after being promised better prices by traders for lean pork.

An inspection team from the Animal Health Department in Dong Nai caught a group of people red handed mixing salbutamol, a substance banned in food production, with pig mash on a 500-pig farm in Vinh Cuu ward.

“Dozens of pigs tested positive for salbutamol with concentrations far exceeding the permitted limit. This substance is mixed with pig mash to make the meat leaner,” a department official said.

“It is rare for a farmer to admit a trader has told him to use a banned substance,” an inspector said. “Normally, the offenders don't report anything and just pay the fines. This makes it very difficult for us to address the root of the problem.”The owner of the farm said a pig trader had shown him how to use the substance to make the pork lean so his pigs could sell for higher prices. The farmer has agreed to stop using the substance and accepted the fines after hearing an explanation of the dangers of using salbutamol.

Deputy chair of the Livestock Association in Dong Nai, Nguyen Kim Doan, said that some traders have “forced” the farmers to use banned substances.

“Lean pork sells better in the market,” Doan said. “Traders convince the farmers to use salbutamol to increase the price they get for each kilogram of meat from VND2,000 ($0.09) to VND3,000. If the farmers refuse, they threaten to pay a much lower price or stop buying meat from them all together.”

According to leaders of the association, farmers in the province generally know better. They said the banned substance helps make the pork leaner but the profit they make is minimal. Pigs that are fed banned substances often have weak legs and take longer to mature, and this increases breeding costs. Some farmers, however, do not have stable outputs so they have to rely on the traders and blindly follow their demands.

A leader in the food safety industry said that because people like to consume lean pork, the traders and farmers have resorted to banned substances. They want to take advantage of the consumer mentality that prefers “better looking” products.

"For now, the most important thing is to raise consumer awareness. In Thailand, use of banned substances was a serious problem before and has greatly disturbed the livestock sector. Now they have been able to deal with the problem, but it's taken them five years to do it,” he said.

Vice Chairman of Dong Nai Livestock Association Nguyen Kim Doan suggested a fixed price for pork so that farmers are not dependent on traders. Doan also called for a mechanism to protect legitimate farmers who are at a disadvantage to others who do not follow regulations.

"Once we enter the TPP and imported meat products enter the domestic market, consumers will buy the imported meat for fear that domestic produce is unsafe. The domestic livestock sector will die if we fail to tackle banned substances," said Doan.

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