Speaking at an Oct. 14 conference in HCM City , Nguyen Xuan Duong, deputy director of the Animal Husbandry Department, said more than 23,558 breeding farms exist nationwide, up 13.2 percent over last year.

Most of them are located in the Red River Delta, the southeastern region, or the Mekong River Delta.

Duong said the animal husbandry industry, especially the animal feed processing sector, is integrating quickly with its international counterparts worldwide.

At the conference, which was held to review performance for the first three quarters, Duong said that the number of small-scale farms has dropped, but industrial farms, which provide higher productivity and quality, have increased.

Despite high input costs and animal diseases, the industry still maintains a high growth rate, with an increase of 16.8 percent of poultry output, nearly three percent of pork, and 19 percent of eggs, meeting domestic demand. However, production in different regions is unequal, causing partial shortages and price differences in several localities.

The sustainable development of the industry is still threatened by small-scale scattered farms, volatility in animal-feed prices and a high risk of disease.

In addition, most industrial farms have been developed without a zoning plan.

That is partly due to inadequate investment in the sector by the Government, and a lack of policies to support small-scale farmers in their bid to enter the market economy, he said.

Other reasons include the poor management by State agencies in controlling disease, or the quality of breeders and animal feed.

Duong said the industry will continue to re-arrange its production system by encouraging development of industrial farms, linking with industrial slaughterhouses and meat processing plants.

This will ensure hygiene and safety in breeding and reduce diseases to improve productivity and quality as well as protect the environment.

He called on localities to make clear zoning plans and set aside land funds for the industry and move farms out of residential areas.

Participants at the meeting asked the Government to create conditions for households and enterprises in the sector to access long-term bank loans and subsidise a part of the interest rate so they can upgrade their breeding facilities.

In addition, many provincial departments of Agriculture and Rural Development have asked the Government to completely subsidise the cost of blue-ear vaccines.

More agriculture insurance, especially in the animal husbandry industry, is necessary to make banks feel secure when they provide loans to breeding establishments.

Diep Kinh Tan, deputy minister of Agriculture and Rural Development, said the country will continue to create conditions for household-based breeding to develop, but called on farmers to work together under cooperatives or to cooporate with businesses to solve environmental problems and ensure outlets.

He asked the Animal Husbandary Department to complete planning for the animal breeders' system and keep a close eye on the market, prices and disease development from now to the year-end./.