The domestic livestock industry must find a way to reduce its production cost and become more competitive, or give in to the market domination of imported meat.

Nguyen Dang Vang, Chairman of the Vietnam Livestock Association, told the Phap Luat (Law) online newspaper that the price of pork and beef, two meat staples in the country, was too high.

During the Tet (Lunar New Year) festival season, the prices of domestic beef have skyrocketed, while that of imported beef increased only slightly by 10,000-20,000 VND (0.4-0.8 USD) per kilo, he said.

At supermarkets and food stores, beef imported from Australia has become popular and familiar to consumers because of its quality and reasonable price.

According to the Southeast Asian Livestock Services, as many as 68,000 heads of cattle were exported to Vietnam last year, a record increase, compared to the 3,500 in 2012.

Vietnam has become the second largest livestock importer from Australia.

In Ho Chi Minh City, Vissan Limited Company, one of the city's biggest food suppliers, has begun to use imported cattle instead of domestic produce.

Van Duc Muoi, general director of Vissan, explained that the low quality and quantity of domestic cows, which were actually smuggled from Thailand, Laos and Cambodia via Tinh Bien and Lao Bao border gates, and their high prices were the main reason.

On average, there are about 4,000 cows smuggled into Vietnam.

Muoi said Australian cattle were strictly quarantined and of clear origin, so he felt secure about their quality.

Last year, the company imported 50,000 cows, and the number would increase this year, he said.

Pham Duc Binh, deputy chairman of the Vietnam Animal Feed Association, said the conditions to raise cattle in Australia, which had vast grasslands and large-scale farms, made it possible for them to produce high-quality cows at reasonable prices.

Australian cows are much heavier at 500-700 kilos each compared to the average of 200-250 kilos for domestic cows. Thus, enterprises that imported whole cows stood to earn higher profits as the rate of useable meat in imported cows was 60-65 percent compared to the 50 percent in domestic cattle, Binh said.

Pigs raised in the US and Canada were also cheaper because the cost of feed accounted for 50 percent of the production cost there compared to the 75 percent here, he added.

Weak disease prevention and the small size of domestic farms increased the price of domestic pigs, he said.
 
Nguyen Xuan Duong, deputy head of the Ministry of Agriculture and Rural Development's Livestock Department, said the ministry has prepared plans to boost the livestock industry in a professional way.

It would create large grasslands and build large-scale farms and replace rice fields with corn and beans to supply raw material for animal feed, he said, adding that production chain efficiency – from raising cows to supplying beef – would be enhanced to reduce costs.-VNA