Photo courtesy of Tuoi Tre
While Vietnamese fields have been producing an abundance of rice, the breeding sector last year had to import more than US$4 billion in corn, wheat and soybean feed to breed animals.
Industry insiders said they depend almost totally on animal feed imports, and urged the agriculture officials to restructure the cultivation system to make it less rice-oriented and focus more on producing breeding materials, Tuoi Tre newspaper reported.
Tran Quang Trung who owns a farm of 1,000 pigs in Dong Nai Province neighboring Ho Chi Minh City said he uses two tons of animal feed a day and 80 percent are imported.
“Soybeans and amino acids are imported a hundred percent, while corn and fish powder are half local, half imported.”
Trung said all farmers feed their animals the same way.
He said that although local supplies have most of the feeds they import, they prefer foreign supplies as the prices are more stable.
Figures from the agriculture ministry showed that Vietnam imported $3 billion of animal feed products in 2013, 2 percent more than rice export revenues for the year, and more than $1 billion in corn, soybean and wheat flour for processing animal feeds, a surge from the previous year.
The ministry also said Vietnam imported 582,000 tons of corn worth $150 million in January, six times in amount and 4.6 times in value compared to corn imports in January 2013.
Pham Duc Binh, vice chairman of the Vietnam Breeding Association, said all imported corn is used to produce animal feeds, soybeans are pressed for oil and 80 percent of the residue is also used for animal feeds, the same with 20 percent of imported wheat.
“Vietnam can only provides itself rice bran and cassava, and depends on imports for the rest.”
Le Ba Lich, chairman of the association, said the over reliance on foreign ingredients is the result of an agricultural system that has been poorly structured for 20 years.
Lich, who used to work at the agriculture ministry’s Breeding Department, said he has been asking officials to pay more attention to growing plants for breeding, which is a fast-growing industry.
While the import of breeding materials continues to rise, the soybean cultivation area in the country has dropped from more than 300,000 hectares to some 100,000 hectares or less due to poor productivity, according to statistics from the agricultural ministry.
Prof. Henry T. Nguyen, director of the National Center for Soybean Biotechnology at the University of Missouri, told Tuoi Tre that Vietnam has focused resources on rice for so long that it has left other plants very uncompetitive.
But Nguyen said Vietnam is capable of fixing that, just like it has grown from a country with rice shortages to the world's leading rice exporter.
“If it turns its focus to soybeans, it can raise productivity to double or triple present.”
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