Vietnam’s pork production is on a rapid path to recovery, USDA said in its most recent Foreign Agricultural Service Global Agricultural Information Network (GAIN) report. In 2020, the African swine fever (ASF) epidemic in Vietnam caused a loss of about 86,000 pigs or 1.5% of the culled pigs in 2019. Although ASF outbreaks continue to recur, most of them are sporadic, small-scale and quickly contained.

Official statistics show that the total pig herd in Vietnam was 27.3 million head as of December 2020, equivalent to about 88.7% of the pre-ASF level.

“Although the recovery of Vietnam’s swine industry is underway, it has not reached the pre-ASF level, as ongoing challenges with ASF remain,” the report said. “Vietnam’s pork production is predicted to continue to recover in 2021, leading to lower demand for imports of pork and pork products than in 2020.”

Growing Swine Population

According to Vietnam’s General Statistics Office (GSO), data showed that in Q1 of 2021, the swine population increased by 11.6% relative to the same period in 2020. The output of liveweight pork produced in Q1 was estimated at 1.02 million metric tons, up 7.5% over the same period last year.

In 2020, Vietnam imported 43,806 breeder pigs (including 1,219 boars) with 79% from Thailand, with the remaining from Canada, U.S., Denmark, France and Taiwan. For the first time ever, Vietnam allowed imports of live pigs from Thailand for raising/slaughtering beginning June 2020, to make up for the domestic pork shortages.

Vietnam’s pig herd is expected to reach about 28.5 million head, with sow numbers at 2.8 to 2.9 million head by 2025. The report indicated Vietnam aims to reduce the proportion of pigs and increase the proportion of poultry and cattle in its livestock herd structure. By 2025, meat and poultry production is forecast to reach 5.0 to 5.5 million metric tons, with pork accounting for 63% to 65%.

According to Rabobank’s March 2021 report, Vietnam’s pork production output will increase by 8% to 12% year-on-year. Given the current ASF developments, some industry analysts predict Vietnam’s swine herd cannot fully recover from ASF until after 2025.

A Wave of New Investments

Still, the report showed that in 2020, Vietnam witnessed an unprecedented wave of investments in the livestock sector in general and in swine production in particular.

Examples include New Hope’s three pork farms in Binh Dinh, Binh Phuoc, and Thanh Hoa provinces with a total capacity of 27,000 sows; the strategic co-operation between De Heus Group (Netherlands) and Hung Nhon Group to develop a network of large-scale breeding projects in the Central Highlands; Japfa Comfeed Vietnam Co., Ltd.’s hi-tech hog farm in Binh Phuoc Province with a capacity of 130,000 finishers a year (equivalent to about 140,000 MT of pork meat), and Masan Meatlife’s slaughtering and processing complex in Long An Province with an annual capacity of 140,000 MT.

“Of note, THADI – a subsidiary of one of Vietnam’s leading automakers Truong Hai Auto Corporation THACO – emerged as a new player in the agriculture sector, investing in hi-tech breeder pig farms in An Giang and Binh Dinh provinces with a capacity of 1.2 million hogs a year,” the report said. “Vietnam’s leading steel maker, Hoa Phat Group, also invested in developing FarmFeed-Food (3F) value chain and in farms nationwide to supply parent breeder pigs, commercial breeder pigs, hi-quality hogs with a goal of supplying 500,000 commercial pigs a year to the market.”

ASF Challenges Continue

ASF is more in control at the moment in Vietnam, but the report notes challenges remain to reach pre-ASF pork productions levels.

“The transportation and trading of pigs is still not strictly controlled, creating opportunities for ASF outbreaks. Some small-scale pig-raising households in the central part of Vietnam have dumped pig carcasses into unsecure locations, including rivers and canals, which are close to heavily inhabited areas, raising the risk of further spread of the disease,” the report said.

The rate of repopulation is expected to accelerate, mainly in industrial swine operations, where investments in large-scale, high-technology and vertically integrated swine farming operations have driven swine herd recovery and expansion.

Although pork prices are trending down, hog prices are expected to remain higher than pre-ASF levels throughout 2021, given the rising livestock input prices (e.g. feed, breeder pigs) and ongoing ASF outbreaks.

Farm Journal’s Pork | Jennifer Shike | May 18,