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Vietnamese pork consumers turn to reliable distribution channels amidst African swine fever epidemic

Thursday, March 14, 2019, 20:05 GMT+7
Vietnamese pork consumers turn to reliable distribution channels amidst African swine fever epidemic
Shoppers buy pork at a supermarket in District 1, Ho Chi Minh City. Photo: Quang Dinh / Tuoi Tre

Vietnamese consumers are becoming increasingly more cautious when picking pork, opting for products with traceable origins and sold by trusted distribution channels amidst the African swine fever (ASF) epidemic spreading throughout the country.

The first outbreaks of ASF in Vietnam were recorded in early February and the disease has since spread to 16 provinces and cities across north-central and northern Vietnam, including Hanoi.

The north-central province of Nghe An is the latest locality to report cases of ASF.

Statistics from the Ministry of Agriculture and Rural Development revealed that more than 17,000 pigs had been incinerated as of Tuesday in a bid to stop the disease from spreading.

Consumers in many parts of the country, some of which have yet to record an outbreak, are taking precautions by avoiding pork, despite the disease posing no risk to human health.

African swine fever is a severe viral disease which affects domestic and wild pigs.

It is incurable and the infected swine have a 100 percent fatality rate, thus ASF can result in serious production and economic losses.

A woman buys pork at a supermarket in District 1, Ho Chi Minh City. Photo: Nguyet Nhi / Tuoi Tre

A woman buys pork at a supermarket in District 1, Ho Chi Minh City. Photo: Nguyet Nhi / Tuoi Tre

Multiple kindergartens in Hanoi have decided to remove pork from the daily meals they provide for their students.

Meanwhile, merchants at local markets are reporting significant drops in their pork sales.

In the southern province of Binh Duong, some FDI (foreign direct investment) companies have stopped serving pork to their workers.

At the Binh Dien wholesale market in District 8, Ho Chi Minh City, the amount of pork and related products has decreased by 70 metric tons since March 8.

A similar situation has also been recorded at markets in Hoc Mon and Ba Chieu Districts in the southern hub.

Both Binh Duong Province and Ho Chi Minh City have not been affected by the disease.

A truck carrying pork is sterilized before entering Ho Chi Minh City. Photo: Quang Dinh / Tuoi Tre

A truck carrying pork is sterilized before entering Ho Chi Minh City. Photo: Quang Dinh / Tuoi Tre

According to Nguyen Xuan Duong, head of the Department of Livestock Production under the agricultural ministry, fake news about ASF posted to social media has severe impacts on the decisions of local consumers.

Reliable distribution channels

The decrease in pork demand seems limited to wet markets, as supermarkets, which are able to provide transparent information about the origins of the products they sell, have yet to report any losses.

According to a representative of the Saigon Co.op supermarket chain, the amount of pork in Co.op stores has risen by more than 20 percent since news about the disease was publicized.

A truck carrying pork is sterilized in the central city of Da Nang. Photo: Bui Toan / Tuoi Tre

A truck carrying pork is sterilized in the central city of Da Nang. Photo: Bui Toan / Tuoi Tre

“We have taken certain measures to monitor the quality of the meat and we only accept products from reliable sources,” the representative shared.

Pham Khanh Phong Lan, head of the food safety management committee in Ho Chi Minh City, asserted that authorities have been closely inspecting the transport of pork and related products into the metropolis.

Meat entering the city without legitimate proof of origin or which does not meet quality requirements is immediately disposed of, Lan added.

Residents in Hanoi are also choosing to purchase pork at local supermarkets, rather than remove it from their diets altogether.

According to the General Department of Preventive Medicine, pork that is infected with ASF can be easily identified by its unusual brownish gray or light blue coloring. 

It is also typically covered with tiny dots.  

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