The increasingly high number of meat imports in recent months has put pressure on the domestic cattle industry, according to an article published on the English language news portal VietNamNet Bridge.

Vietnamese beef products are no longer found on the shelves at Lotte, Co-op Mart and Big C, the big supermarket chains in Vietnam. There are only beef imports from Australia, which, though being more expensive than domestic products, are still selling faster.

According to the General Department of Customs, in the first months of 2014, Vietnam imported 1,431 pigs, or two times higher than that imported in the same period of 2013. Of these, 66.4 percent were from the US, 31.9 percent from Canada and 1.7 percent from Taiwan.

Vietnamese government agencies had granted licences to import 72,000 live cows by May 31, which accounted for 13.2 percent of the total number of cows Australia had sold by that time. It is highly possible that Vietnam would have to import 150,000 cows from Australia this year to satisfy domestic demand.

Besides live cows, Vietnam has also been importing live buffaloes to slaughter domestically for sale and for frozen products. About 300 tonnes of boneless meat and 14,532 tonnes of boned meat had been imported by the end of May.

Meanwhile, chicken imports have also been increasing rapidly, with 43,000 tonnes of chicken having arrived in Vietnam by the end of May. In 2013, Vietnam imported 78,000 tonnes of chicken.

A report showed that chicken imports account for 6-7 percent of the total amount of meat consumed domestically.

Imports have pushed domestic farmers against the wall. Dat Viet newspaper quoted the owner of a fowl farm in Binh Duong province as saying that the chicken price has fallen by 1,000 VND per kilo in recent days.

The farmers blamed the lower prices on oversupply after farmers had rushed to expand their farms’ scale, and on high quantities of recent imports.

A local newspaper quoted its source as reporting that in May and June alone, nearly 10,000 tonnes of frozen chicken were marketed, while the demand remained very weak due to the economic crisis.

Analysts have repeatedly given warnings about the difficulties the livestock industry is facing. The meat imports, with amounts increasing steadily in recent years, have made Vietnamese farmers suffer because their products cannot compete with imports.

Tran Hoang Ngan, a renowned economist, noted that farmers now incurred double losses because their products are unsalable, or sold at low prices, while they have to pay high costs for imported feed.

Minister of Agriculture and Rural Development Cao Duc Phat said Vietnam had to import 1.3 million tonnes of maize and 1 million tonnes of soybeans in 2012 to make animal feed.

Meanwhile, the total import turnover of feed and input materials reached 3 billion USD in 2013, up by 22.3 percent over 2012.

According to the Vietnam Livestock Association, the domestic livestock industry incurred a major loss of 27 trillion VND in the last two years.

Phat admitted that animal husbandry is the weakest sector of Vietnam’s agriculture production.-VNA