Vietnam and Philippines  look to a revived hog industry

Vietnam has overcome ‘the first round’ of the ASF scourge, although it is still present in pockets across the country. The battle lines have been drawn, writes HA THU and industry players know that the rules have changed – they have to adapt to survive.

“The pig industry in Vietnam will recover. However, the future of pig farming will change with larger commercial operators playing a key role. They can afford to invest in biosecurity, while the small holdings cannot remain sustainable in the long term,” David John Whitehead, Chairman of Mavin Group told Asian Agribiz.

ASF destroyed 20% of Vietnam’s pig population in 2019 with more that 80% of household farms affected.

This year, the Department of Livestock Production (DLP) reported the end of ASF in 99% of  the infected areas, after they reported no new cases in 30 days.

This led to a rush to boost production to meet market scarcity. The DLP expects that by Q3 this year, the sector can balance supply and demand. DLP reported that the total number of pigs in the country has reached nearly 24 million, up 2 million compared to that of December 2019. The total number of breeding sows is 2.62 million and is expected to reach about 2.9 million heads by yearend.

Living with ASF

Without a vaccine, ASF is here to stay, and producers must learn how to live with it. It will dictate how Vietnam’s pig industry will develop and reshape itself in a few years.

“ASF has given impetus to industry developments. There is demand now for good pig genetics, more automation, and fewer people on-farm. Many things that would have eventually happened in the long term have been advanced,” Gabor Fluit, CEO Asia at animal nutrition company De Heus said in an interview.

“The biggest challenge now for Vietnam’s livestock producers is to overcome the effects of ASF. We will put a lot of effort into developing and farming pigs that are strong and healthy and have high disease immunity,” said Mr Whitehead.

Mavin has launched its ‘3-step protection’ kit to help hog farmers in Vietnam protect their herds against ASF. The kit includes Formavet – a disinfectant used in feed, drinking water and farm daily cleaning; Glucanvita- a natural extract product to enhance the immune system of pigs; and Cl-Tylva 50 – a new generation antibiotic to inhibit intracellular virus replication.

The company said that biosafety control package combined with the use of safe animal feed is key to Mavin’s successful preservation of nearly 30,000 breeding sows from ASF.

With confidence, Mr Whitehead revealed that Mavin aims for a 15-20% expansion in hog production this year.

Mavin claims that the '3-step protection' concept has helped the company protect its breeding herd against ASF

Get breeding stock ready

One problem hindering recovery is the shortage of breeding pigs. About 30-50% of Vietnam’s sow population was lost to ASF. Since they are dependent on imported breeding pigs, Vietnamese pig producers are facing two challenges: purchasing competition from China, and Covid-19 causing disruption in pig transportation.

To help the industry, the government is implementing preferential importing policies and financial support to facilitate the import of breeding pigs. Hanoi has claimed that it will provide financial support of 30% the cost for piglets to help farmers restock.

The DLP projects that about 12,000 GGP and 20,000 PS sows will be imported this year. The major suppliers of breeding pigs to Vietnam are Canada (88%), the US (6.6%) and Taiwan (5.4%).

Acting DLP Director Nguyen Xuan Duong said that these will serve as replacement for imported breeding pigs in 2016 and offset the losses due to ASF.

As of April 19, Vietnam has imported 5016 GGP, up 288% compared to 2018 and 101% compared to 2019.

Slow recovery in the Philippines

The Philippine pig industry took a major hit when ASF was first confirmed in September 2019. Since then losses have mounted, especially in the hardest hit region of Central Luzon, the biggest pig producer in the country. Estimates vary but as much as 60% of the industry has been lost.

Understandably, consumer demand dived on confirmation of the disease. By mid-December, demand was starting to pick up again. Pork supply was not initially a problem, because many farms decided to dispose their healthy animals rather than risk them getting infected.

However, ASF continued to spread, not just among backyard farms. Even some highly biosecure, large commercial farms were not spared. Both the government and industry leaders have been working to contain the spread. However, much of the blame for the virus’ spread fell on two things: 1) illegal transport and sale of infected pigs and 2) continued use of swill as feed.

Japfa has imported several thousand high quality pure line breeders from Hypor in North America to fuel the company's increasing breeding capacity

Rebuilding the industry

Several industry practitioners told Asian Agribiz that both the industry and government must now go beyond containment and control and work on rebuilding the industry, and helping farmers manage production in an environment where ASF is present.

Zoilo Lapus, President of the Philippine College of Swine Practitioners, told Asian Agribiz that with or without a vaccine, he believes ASF will become endemic like hog cholera.

Currently, most producers are maintaining a ‘wait-and-see’ attitude. Without a vaccine, many are unwilling to repopulate. But there are some who are looking further into the future and seeing potential.

As with China and Vietnam, most observers feel that ASF will bring about changes in the Philippine pig production landscape. ASF has forced many backyard and small-scale raisers from the market. It will be large producers, armed with better biosecurity and more modern facilities, that will pick up.

“With ASF, we saw the need to change our current production systems,” one industry figure said. “Some of these changes require investments beyond the capacity of small players. So, we will likely see bigger commercial operations getting a better slice of the pie.”

Another said producers will have no choice but to change their model as consumers take more interest in food safety and animal welfare. These can only be addressed by investing in modern and efficient production.

“Modernizing to become more efficient calls for heavy investments that don’t come cheap. But that is where we have to go. A producer will want to protect that investment and make sure it is both profitable and sustainable,” he said.