Authorities in Dong Nai have almost thrown in the towel in the fight against the use of banned chemicals at pig breeding farms in the southern province, with farmers willing to pay the current fines.
Swine breeders generate large sums of money from the sale of pork, and a fine of VND15 million (US$670) seems modest to violators, who remain undeterred from feeding them the banned chemicals.
Dong Nai, whose capital Bien Hoa is some 40km northeast of Ho Chi Minh City, is home to 20,000 small pig farms and more than 1,500 major breeding centers. A farm with fewer than 100 swine in its herd is considered small-scale.
The province is regarded as the largest supplier of pork to Ho Chi Minh City and nearby locales in southern Vietnam.
Last year authorities collected 386 samples of the animal feed and urine for a check, with 12.17 percent of them, or 47 samples, eventually testing positive for salbutamol, a lean-meat agent that helps pigs or shrimp gain weight in a short time but is detrimental to human health.
Twenty-five major breeding centers were therefore subject to a VND15 million fine each, whereas a smaller center was fined VND7.5 million ($335) for the violations.
However these fines clearly did not set an example to other swine breeders in Dong Nai.
The latest inspection by local authorities on 40 pig farms in mid-March found four farms that were feeding the animals banned substances. Each of the violators was fined VND15 million.
An animal health official takes urine samples from pigs at a farm in Dong Nai. Photo: Tuoi Tre
Tran Van Quang, head of the Dong Nai animal health agency, admitted that using banned substances in pig breeding is a common practice in his province.
The official said his agency would find at least 10 percent of samples positive for banned substances in any inspection on the bigger farms, whose herds are larger than 100.
Quang added there was not enough personnel to inspect smaller farms.
According to current regulations, a farm in breach of the regulations is subject to supervision by local authorities, and is only allowed to sell its pigs again if the animals test negative for the chemicals.
But breeding centers can secretly sell their swine, and buy a new herd to replace them when officers come back to perform the tests, the province’s animal health agency admitted.
The Dong Nai Husbandry Association has repeatedly encouraged its members not to use banned chemicals, but the efforts have so far been to no avail.
“Perhaps stricter punishments may help to stop the violations,” the association's chairman Nguyen Tri Cong said.