Authorities are set to intensify checks on animal feed producers and traders and pig farmers and slaughter houses around the country, an official from the Animal Husbandry Department told an April 24 conference in HCM City.

They would focus on small and medium-sized production establishments and those without a clear place of origin, said Chu Dinh Khu, head of the department's Animal Feed Division.

It was aimed at improving the quality and safety of feed, and anyone found adding banned substances to animal feed or giving it to animals would be severely penalised.

Last year an inspection of 88 animal feed manufacturers, 71 feed distributors, 256 pig farms, 33 pig slaughterhouses and 14 pork trading establishments had found the use of banned substances in animal feed production and animal breeding continuing in many places, especially at times when pork prices surge.

Of 329 feed samples collected, 14 percent had violated quality and safety norms and 5.2 percent tested positive for banned substances.

Besides, almost 4 percent of 311 pig urine samples had tested positive for harmful substances while 17.7 percent of 346 samples of pork meat, liver and kidneys contained antibiotic residues.

Last year individuals and organisations had been fined a total of 545.55 million VND (25,303 USD) for violations.

The country had produced 14.46 million tonnes of feed last year, but imported 11 million tonnes of raw materials for it, mainly protein and energy-rich materials and additives.

All the imports had been checked and the incidence of violations was well down from previous years.

Delegates at the conference, while complaining that a shortage of staff made it hard to oversee the industry, agreed that intensifying checks of feed production and animal husbandry establishments was essential.

Phan Minh Bau, deputy director of the Dong Nai Province Department of Agriculture and Rural Development, proposed more severe penalties to deter repeat violations.

The country has 203 feed producers, of which 61 are foreign-invested or joint ventures accounting for over half the market share.-VNA