Animal health in Vietnam's livestock development - part 1: overview

Improvements in the quality and safety of Vietnamese meat products are crucial when the country’s vision of becoming a major meat exporter is to be realized. This research by the Agri team at the Netherlands Embassy will provide the insights of animal health’ s important role in Vietnam livestock development and the opportunities for Dutch business in this market.

The livestock sector of Vietnam in response to food demand challenges

Food demand has also increased rapidly as population and incomes have increased, and food consumption patterns have shifted. The past decade has seen very high levels of growth in the consumption of meat (especially pork), milk, and eggs—growth rates higher than those experienced by any country in the region.

Vietnam is one of the world's top pork consumption countries and is 2nd in Asia, only after China.

The Vietnam pig industry is the key driver of local feed industry, producing 23.5 million tons in 2017, making it the biggest animal feed producer in ASEAN and the 10th biggest in the world.

Despite being the world’s 6th largest producer of pork and growing global demand, Vietnam exports less than 1% of its total production.

The livestock sector in Vietnam is undergoing a structural change involving a move toward intensive systems and larger production scales. With regard to production volume and economic value, pig raising is the largest sub-sector, followed by poultry. Improvements in the quality and safety of Vietnamese pork and poultry products are crucial when the country’s vision of becoming a major meat exporter is to be realized.

Pig health in combating AFS and vaccine approach in Vietnam

In Vietnam, African swine fever has been recorded since March 2019. Only in 2019, this dangerous epidemic has spread across provinces and cities across the country.

According to figures by the UN’s Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO), more than 6 million pigs in all 63 provinces had to be culled due to the virus in the last few years. This is an unprecedented loss in the history of the livestock industry. Although in quite a number of provinces, no recent cases have been reported, the virus is still present in domestic pigs in the country. So the vaccine can have a huge added value.

After the US announced the selected the virus strains for vaccine production, the Ministry of Agriculture and Rural Development directed the Department of Animal Health and a number of businesses to actively cooperate closely with American partners for setting up transferring and licensing agreements.

The Vietnamese Department of Animal Health (DAH) and the Navetco National Veterinary Joint Stock Company licensed and received the material under a “Material Transfer Research Agreement” (MTRA). According to Navetco, after five experiments, the vaccine is capable of protecting 100% of the injected pigs in the laboratory. The prevention power is continuing to be monitored further after vaccination. Vietnam could start with commercial production of the vaccine in the 2nd quarter of the year.

In addition to ASF, the pig herd is also suffering from many other diseases, such as Porcine Reproductive and Respiratory Syndrome (PRRS) and Porcine Acute Diarrhea (PEDv), causing supply shortages, as well as Classical Swine Fever (CSF) re-emerged in some localities, affecting the production of pig famers.

Pig vaccination
Pig vaccination

Poultry health

The Vietnam Veterinary Authority has just reported to the World Organization for Animal Health on 40 outbreaks of highly toxic avian influenza (HPAI) in poultry flocks that occurred earlier this year. Elsewhere in Asia, only Taiwan has reported recent cases of the disease in poultry.

According to a report to the World Organization for Animal Health (OIE), Vietnam had 40 more outbreaks of highly toxic avian influenza that occurred from December 30, 2020 to early February 2021. At these sites, the presence of a highly virulent H5N6 virus was confirmed.

All reported outbreaks occurred in poultry flocks in the villages, ranging in size from about 200 to more than 6,000 birds. Avian influenza was recorded in 15 provinces and cities, mostly in the North, Red River Delta and North Central Coast, but also scattered in the Central Highlands and in the Mekong Delta.

These latest outbreaks bring the total number of poultry outbreaks in Vietnam to 52, as of August 2020, and the number of directly affected poultry to more than 114,400. This outbreak follows a brief hiatus of highly virulent avian influenza in Vietnam.

Prospects for future

In recent years, Vietnam has seen a huge amount of investment in the livestock industry, moving towards integration in the value chain. Many of these companies have a foreign base but have set up joint ventures in Vietnam, although lately more companies are solely Vietnamese origin. Initially these companies just produced poultry feed for local farmers, later also joined the production chain with own poultry facilities. Furthermore, many of these companies are now participating in a supply chain exporting poultry products with a focus on food safety, quality and sustainability.

Investors who have recently entered the market are developing large-scale projects using modern professional technology. Some examples of joint ventures between foreign companies such as De Heus and local partners in Vietnam. De Heus Vietnam is one of the pioneering companies developing safe food value chains in Vietnam. De Heus and Vinh Anh have joined up to form the Green Chicken LLC company and are building a completely new broiler and duck processing plant. The entire equipment line of Green Chicken poultry slaughter plant is supplied, installed, monitored and operated by Marel Poultry (Netherlands), one of the world's leading companies in systems and poultry slaughtering and processing services. In April 2021, De Heus also launched another cooperation on a complete value chain on poultry products: from incubation, hatchery, broiler farms to processing for both domestic consumption and export, together with Belga Company, De Hung Nhon Group and partners. It is also worthwhile to mention the activity of CP group, which is the CPV Food Complex Project on fully integrated exporting chicken was held by CPV Food Co., Ltd. This is the largest complex of breeding and processing chicken for export in Southeast Asia until now.

The Ministry of Agriculture and Rural Development (MARD) has announced plans for livestock development in the 2020 – 2030 period. Broiler production is set to reach 400 – 450 million, up from 358 million head in 2019. Medium and large commercial farms will account for 60% of the total farms. MARD will also intensify control of  important diseases with biosecurity to improve the performance of the industry. To facilitate the plan, MARD wants the government to open more land for animal husbandry projects to attract investment for large-scale farms.

Importance of biosecurity and disease free zones

Since the H5N1 HPAI (Highly Pathogenic Avian Influenza) outbreaks started in 2003, poor biosecurity in poultry farms and at live bird markets has been recognized as one of the factors that contributed to increasing the risk for disease introduction, spread along poultry value chains in Viet Nam.

Under the local production circumstances with small-size farms and the absence of vaccines against animal diseases, biosecurity has been identified as the key for sustainable and healthy livestock production in Viet Nam, yet implementing biosecurity practices is having a lot of difficulties. There is a lack of detailed description of how biosecurity is implemented in Vietnamese pig and poultry production. The occurrence of ASF has pushed consolidation in Vietnam which farmers in order to sustain their businesses, are forced to improve veterinary hygiene conditions, productivity, and management skills contributes to disease risk management along the supply chain. In recent years, due to the improved understanding of antimicrobial resistance and disease outbreak prevention, biosecurity in livestock production has been improved, leading to more awareness in the need and proper use of disinfection chemical, as one of many aspects for biosecurity.

As the Vietnam’s livestock sector is restructured with export oriented, more and more livestock farmers in Vietnam realized the need for disease-free zone development with appropriate mechanisms and cooperation aiming to develop a closed production chain from pig genetics, animal feed, production and processing to produce high quality and safe products meeting conditions and standards set by the importing countries.

Link to Part 2 ‘Opportunities for Dutch companies’ :