Vietnam hopes to import less than 50 percent of its animal feed by 2020.

According to the Vietnam Feed Association, the country imported about nine million tonnes of corn, wheat and soybean feed and fish powder in 2013, accounting for 70 percent of total consumption and costing about 4 billion USD.

The country's agricultural sector focuses too much on rice – a traditional staple –and not enough on producing livestock feed, experts warned.

Nguyen Van Trong, Head of the Animal Husbandry Department under the Ministry of Agriculture and Rural Development (MARD), said domestic feed production could not currently meet demand.

Promoting investment into that and other supporting sectors for husbandry development will be a major priority in the coming years, according to a draft plan to restructure the livestock sector presented at a recent conference organised by MARD.

Vietnam imported 582,000 tonnes of corn worth 150 million USD in January, six times the amount imported in January 2013.

Le Ba Lich, Chairman of the Vietnam Feed Association, said Vietnam also imported soybean feed from the US, Argentina, Brazil and India, which use genetically-modified technology to increase productivity.

"We need to expand areas that grow genetically-modified crops so we can reduce reliance on imported materials," Lich said. "And the ministry should encourage investment in factories processing fish powder, of which we also import a lot."

Tong Xuan Chinh, Deputy Head of the Animal Husbandry Department under MARD, said the cost of animal feed accounted for 65-70 percent of the cost of livestock products, so relying heavily on animal feed imports drove up the price of meat.

Chinh recommended Vietnam shift some of the land used for rice cultivation to growing corn and soybeans and use more technology in agriculture.

Trong said the Ministry planned to increase corn cultivation area to about two million hectares by 2020.

Experts said the Government should implement long-term policies to support farmers to shift from cultivating other plants, provide preferential credit policies for companies to invest in raw material production centres and increase investment in research and technology.

Deputy Minister of MARD Vu Van Tam said the livestock sector must act as a driving force for restructuring the entire agriculture sector, ensuring the safety of products as well as the rights of both consumers and farmers.