Chinese illegally buy breeding ducks in southern Vietnam

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Police and immigration officials in the Mekong Delta hub of Can Tho on Sunday fined two Chinese men for trading ducks in the area without permits.

Long Guo Liang, 45, and Feng Bing, 46, were fined VND10 million (US$470) each and will be forced to leave the country before the due date on their visitor visa. They are accused of "running unauthorized activities."

Liang and Bing were caught supervising a duck slaughterhouse of local man Vo Duc Nghia after they entered Vietnam through northern border gate Mong Cai. They have not been licensed to do so.

Local authorities said the two could be members of a group of Chinese dealers who have bought a large number of breeding ducks from local farmers at higher than market prices in order to slaughter and export them to China via Mong Cai.

Locals said more than 60,000 such ducks have been slaughtered and exported recently.

Pham Van Quynh, director of Can Tho agriculture department, said the business was "abnormal" as it targeted mothers-to-be instead of meaty birds.

Quynh said a large-scale purchase could "break down" Can Tho's poultry population and adversely affect farmers.

It was not the first time Chinese dealers have been involved in dubious trade activities in Vietnam.

Local officials earlier fined and deported several Chinese dealers who had hired locals to breed invasive yellow snails, known in Vietnam as "oc buou vang," for export to China. Breeding the snails was banned this year.

The snails, which were imported first in 1975 from South America as a kind of food, became Vietnam's first and biggest lesson in the import of harmful foreign species as they destroyed fields of rice and other crops.

Officials said the ducks that the Chinese dealers were killing and exporting are an effective natural enemy of the snails.

Nguyen Van Liem, deputy director of the agriculture department of the delta's orchard province of Vinh Long, said Chinese dealers recently landed in Vietnam searching for other local foods like sweet potatoes, bananas, durians and plums.

"But the trade is not stable. The goods can be offered at very high prices at the beginning, but then the prices drop astonishingly," Liem said.

Police in nearby Tien Giang Province on December 6 also announced fines for a group of eight Thai men and some Vietnamese of some VND10-20 million each for smuggling local durians to China and Indonesia after soaking them in nebulous preservatives. Vietnamese workers were instructed to bathe the fruits in the chemicals that were brought over from China. The chemicals were also said to enhance and quicken ripening.

Le Huu Hai, a lecturer from Tien Giang University, said the fraud could ruin the reputation of Vietnamese fruits if the durians are exported under Vietnamese labels. They might not taste good when forced to ripen, Hai said.

Vu Anh Phap, deputy head of Mekong Delta Development Research Institute, said Vietnamese farmers have run into lots of problems doing business with Chinese visitors.

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Phap said the farmers have been victimized by price manipulation and payment delinquency.

Chinese dealers are also encouraging farmers to plant low-quality rice by promising to buy it all.

"This can benefit farmers in the short-term, but hardly in the long-term, as it will make it difficult to develop high-quality rice varieties and build big brands for Vietnamese rice," he said.

He said the institute has provided farmers with the good varieties and delivered cultivation techniques as well, but they have been rejected on the ground.

"The farmers are determined to stick with the low-quality rice so they can sell it to China."

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