During the plenary session of the Vietnam Agricultural Outlook Conference 2016 (photo credit: ILRI/Hung Nguyen)
An agricultural conference that discussed ways to strengthen Vietnam’s integration and competitiveness in the global market, as well as the readiness of its livestock, rice and fisheries sectors for the challenges of climate change, was recently held in Hanoi.
Co-organized by the Institute of Policy and Strategy for Agriculture and Rural Development (IPSARD), the Department of Economics of the Office of the National Assembly, the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO) and the Australian Embassy, the ‘Vietnam Agricultural Outlook Conference 2016’ brought together scientists, economists, officials and representatives from Vietnamese government agencies, international research organizations and the private sector.
Hung Nguyen, a food safety and zoonotic diseases scientist from the International Livestock Research Institute (ILRI) and acting regional representative for ILRI East and Southeast Asia, co-chaired a session on ‘livestock commodity – global economic integration and competitiveness in Vietnam’ and delivered a presentation on food safety in the same session.
ILRI’s Hung Nguyen (extreme right, standing) delivers a presentation on food safety in Vietnam’s livestock sector (photo credit: IPSARD).
Nguyen talked about the growing concern over food-borne diseases (FBD) such as diarrhoea and other illnesses caused by aflatoxins, helminths and other microbes and their impacts on human health in the country. These FBDs not only impose a heavy financial burden on consumers, but they also, in some cases, lead to severe illnesses and sometimes even death.
‘Research shows that consumers are willing to pay more, around 5-10%, for safer food’, said Nguyen. However, food safety is not always guaranteed by the formal sector. In some cases meat from supermarkets has been found to be less safe compared to meat sold in informal ‘wet markets’ in Vietnam.
Nguyen said that the informal sector in Vietnam, particularly smallholder pig producers who play a major role in food security by providing food and livelihoods for the poor, should be supported to help them increase their competitiveness and improve food safety in pork production.
ILRI’s PigRisk project in Vietnam
Efforts by ILRI and partners are helping to improve food safety in the country. The ‘Reducing disease risks and improving food safety in smallholder value chains in Vietnam’ project or PigRisk, an ILRI-led and ACIAR-funded five-year project (2012-17), is assessing the impacts of pork-borne diseases on human health and the livestock sector and identifying control points for risk management.
The project is using risk-based approaches in carrying out qualitative and quantitative risk assessments, which are done by a multi-disciplinary team of veterinarians, epidemiologists, economists and environment experts.
The research team has collected data from input suppliers, producers, slaughterhouse operators, traders, vendors and consumers in the project’s study sites in Hung Yen and Nghe An provinces.
Nguyen’s presentation, which was based on findings from the PigRisk project, emphasized the importance of finding the proper balance between formal and informal markets. He recommended providing training for informal value chain actors (such as training farmers on how to adopt good practices), training and certifying food vendors and offering incentive-based interventions.
He also suggested raising awareness of consumers on food safety and for the government to communicate risks on banned chemicals that are sometimes found in pork. ‘Better food system governance through improved food safety institutional framework, regulations and application of risk-based management is also needed’, he said.
Read about the updates on the PigRISK project.
Visit IPSARD’s website for more information on Agro Outlook.
See a related post by The Saigon Times.