Small-scale farmers remain crucial to Vietnamese pork industry

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Pigs feeding at a farm in Vietnam: Small-scale farmers remain crucial to the growth of Vietnam’s pork industry (photo from Flickr by Stephen McGrath, Rock Portrait Photography).

A project that evaluated pig production and marketing in Vietnam shows that supply shortages could be responsible for the current high prices of pork in the country. Supporting small-scale farmers to produce more pigs and improving pork distribution and marketing chains could hold the key to keeping rising prices of pork in the country in check.

Between December 2010 and June 2011, Vietnam experienced a 22 per cent rise in the food price index (a measure of the monthly change in international prices of a basket of food commodities). A spike in the prices of pork, a key part of the Vietnamese diet, was largely responsible for this rise in food costs. Government and pork industry players in the country have blamed the rise in pork prices on both unregulated pork exports to China through cross-border trade and a rise in global food prices generally.

Even though industry stakeholders, including the government, say importing more meat and supporting large commercial producers will stabilize the pork market in Vietnam, research suggests that developing large farms to address supply constraints will not solve the price problem over the long-term. According to the project, which was carried out between 2007 and 2010 in Ha Noi, Ho Chi Minh and six of Vietnam’s provinces, large farms will provide ‘only a small share over the next decade, offering only up to 12 per cent of [the country’s] total pork supply.’ The project, titled ‘Improving competitiveness of smallholder pig producers in an adjusting Vietnam market’, was funded by the Australian Centre for International Agricultural Research (ACIAR) and the Consultative Group on International Agricultural Research (CGIAR).

Many pressing challenges face the Vietnamese pork industry, including increasing feed prices and demand for pork, poor management of the pork value chain, concerns about pig diseases, difficulty finding piglets and other inputs and poor veterinary and credit services.

‘Demand for pork in Vietnam is growing faster than its domestic supply,’ said Lucy Lapar, an economist with ILRI in Vietnam. ‘What our research found was that the recent steep rise in the pork price is most likely a result of inefficiencies along the value chain rather than a critical shortage in pork supply. Normally, high pork prices might encourage pig farmers to expand their production, but in this case, despite the high prices, farmers seem hesitant to raise their pork production,’ said Lapar.

Small-scale farmers in particular worry about pig diseases and the difficulty they face in getting hold of piglets and support services. ‘We need to find ways to address these constraints and bring about substantial improvement to the pig production system,’ said Lapar. ‘Even though efforts by those involved in the pig industry are focusing on increasing large-scale farming of pigs, they must not neglect smallholders who will almost certainly continue to play a significant role in meeting the growing demands for pork in Vietnam in the near future.’

Vietnam’s smallholder pig producers will remain viable because they are able to produce pork at lower costs than large-scale farms by using household scraps and other feeds that would otherwise be unused and thus do not need to rely on feed imports. These practices make small-scale pork production efficient in the long term, translating to better pries for consumers.

‘A combination of small household producers and large pig producers is most efficient for Vietnam at this stage of its pork industry’s development,’ says Lapar. The implications from this project’s findings suggest that the Vietnamese Government and pork industry players should put in place systems and practices that make the pork value chain more efficient and support markets for both small and large producers in the country.

To read more about the project and its findings, visit: http://www.ilri.org/PigProducers and http://mahider.ilri.org/handle/10568/606/browse

Women scientist leading national project to conserve Vietnam’s native livestock breeds wins prestigious Kovalepskaia Award

Prof Dr Le Thi Thuy Prof Dr Le Thi Thuy, Director of the Department of Science and International Cooperation of Vietnam’s National Institute of Animal Husbandry, has been awarded the 2009 Kovalepskaia Award in recognition of her role as a woman scientist working on conservation of indigenous livestock breeds. The award is named after Sophia Kovalepskaia, an eminent 19th-century Russian mathematician. Thuy is serving as the national project director in Vietnam of a multi-national project scientists are leading at the International Livestock Research Institute (ILRI) to help conserve the indigenous farm animal genetic resources of Asia. This project is funded by the Global Environment Facility. The Alexander Von Humboldt Foundation of Germany bestows a bi-annual Sofia Kovalevskaya Award to promising young researchers from all fields. From Wikipedia: Sofia Kovalevskaya, 1850–1891, was the first major Russian female mathematician, responsible for important original contributions to analysis, differential equations and mechanics, and the first woman appointed to a full professorship in Northern Europe. Despite her obvious talent for mathematics, she could not complete her education in Russia. At that time, women there were not allowed to attend the universities. To study abroad, she needed written permission from her father (or husband). Accordingly, she contracted a "fictitious marriage" with Vladimir Kovalevsky, then a young paleontology student who would later become famous for his collaborations with Charles Darwin. They emigrated from Russia in 1867. In 1869, Kovalevskaya began attending the University of Heidelberg, Germany, which allowed her to audit classes as long as the professors involved gave their approval. Shortly after beginning her studies there, she visited London with Vladimir, who spent time with his colleagues Thomas Huxley and Charles Darwin, while she was invited to attend George Eliot's Sunday salons. There, at age nineteen, she met Herbert Spencer and was led into a debate, at Eliot's instigation, on ‘woman's capacity for abstract thought’. This was well before she made her notable contribution of the ‘Kovalevsky top’ to the brief list of known examples of integrable rigid body motion. After two years of mathematical studies at Heidelberg, she moved to Berlin, where she had to take private lessons, as the university would not even allow her to audit classes. In 1874 she presented three papers—on partial differential equations, on the dynamics of Saturn's rings and on elliptic integrals—to the University of Göttingen as her doctoral dissertation. This earned her a doctorate in mathematics summa cum laude, bypassing the usual required lectures and examinations. She thereby became the first woman in Europe to hold that degree. Her paper on partial differential equations contains what is now commonly known as the Cauchy-Kovalevski theorem, which gives conditions for the existence of solutions to a certain class of those equations. In 1889 she was appointed Professorial Chair holder at Stockholm University, the first woman to hold such a position at a northern European university. After much lobbying on her behalf (and a change in the Academy's rules), she was granted a Chair in the Russian Academy of Sciences, but was never offered a professorship in Russia. Kovalevskaya died of influenza in 1891 at age forty-one. Sofja Kowalewskaja

Promising technologies not enough on their own to bring about widespread change in livestock systems

In this short video, ILRI’s Alan Duncan introduces the IFAD-funded ‘Fodder Adoption Project’ based at ILRI.

He outlines the approach followed in the project – trying to strike a balance between the technological and institutional angles.

The project helps groups of stakeholders – farmers, private sector, dairy coops, the government – get together in ‘innovation platforms’ where they can develop joint actions that address livestock fodder problems.

Initially the project went with a traditional approach, focusing on technologies. As the process evolved, other issues came in, more actors joined the platforms, and the technologies – growing improved fodder – acted more as a catalyst for people to come together to discuss a wide range of other issues (dairying, health, etc).

Fodder proved to be a useful ‘engine’ for the group to identify a much wider range of issues to address – along the whole value chain.

He explains that this type of work facilitating stakeholder platforms is “not trivial.” But it is essential: “Technology is only one small part of the equation and really a lot of it is about human interactions and how organizations behave.”

He concludes: “We have lots of promising technologies, but in themselves they are not enough to bring about widespread change in livestock systems.”

See his presentation with Ranjitha Puskur

More information on this project

View the Video:

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