Why Sell It Cheap?
Posted on 20/11/2018
Having not accepted the fact that the market shock would take away her husbandry results, she confidently put forward creative ideas to overcome the likelihood of production loss and triggered a potential for the development of a new business for her family and community…
Ms. Tran Thi Lan, a highland farmer from Khoi Bung Village, Bao Nhai Commune, Lao Cai province had been raising pigs for over 20 years but she had never seen pork price fall so drastically like it was in early 2017. Lan and her husband, Vinh, live with their two daughters. Back then, the family’s main income relied on Vinh repairing electrical devices and Lan raising pigs. A few years ago, their family lived under the poverty line. They were trying their best to get out of poverty and earned enough to cover the children’s schooling expenses, but the sharp decrease of pork price in early 2017 made it difficult for them to do that.
During this difficult time, Lan was invited to join a meeting in her village to discuss household economic development. She attended the meeting out of curiosity and hope. There, she learned about the project “Women’s Economic Empowerment through Agricultural Value Chain Enhancement (WEAVE) and knew that the project supports villagers, especially women, to increase activeness to earn a more sustainable income from raising pigs. Couples were encouraged to participate in trainings and discussions on a wide range of topics such as housework sharing between husband and wife, household economic development planning, livelihood and market analysis, collective action in production and market access, pig raising skills to meet market requirements, and so on. Lan and her husband decided to join one of the Pig Raising Groups of Khoi Bung village. Vinh would never help in husbandry or do housework, but he is now voluntarily preparing pig bran and feed them or prepare meals to ease his wife’s workload. There has been more happiness and laughter in the family
For Lan, however, the real breakthrough is the confidence she gained after each training and group activities. When the group leader was busy, she took charge and led the group’s activities. Group members were encouraged to share problems and find solutions in pig raising. They discussed and agreed to buy animal feed together so they got a better price. They also shared about pig selling price to avoid dumping price given by traders.
Lan actively joined a “core group” to look for other buyers. Through sharing information and participating in study tours, Lan learned that fresh sausages produced in Lao Cai city did not meet the market demand. A bold idea ignited ‘why do I have to sell my pigs at a dumping price while the market demand for sausage is high?’ The thought grew in her mind and she decided to share it with her husband; she said, “If we could make sausages for sale, we would be able to use our own pigs and also our group members’”.Her husband hesitated at first, worrying about the plan’s feasibility, whether they could find stable buyers and whether the production cost would be higher than Chinese sausage price. Lan herself did have the same concerns, but believed that if her product is carefully processed, ensuring food hygiene and safety, they would have opportunities for good quality products. She also shared her plan with the WEAVE project staff and was encouraged by them. The project would pay for her apprenticeship in Lao Cai City. The Commune authorities also promised to help her get Food Safety and Hygiene Certificate if her sausages meet the standards.
Lan proactively met and discussed with the owner of the sausage production house who promised to buy all her sausages if it met their quality standards. Seeing her determination and the encouragement of the project staff and local authorities, her husband agreed with the plan. Together, they developed a detailed business plan, a loan borrow scheme with relatives and friends. Late 2017, Lan started her apprenticeship.
After one year, Lan’s business has grown significantly. The range of products is now more than pork sausage but also giò, chả, nem chua…The business has also expanded in production scale and reached new markets. Lan transferred her production knowledge to other women in her village so they can operate the business as a group. In operation, she purchases all pig meat from other women in her group as inputs for her business production. On the upswing, Lan grouped with other pork business women like her from neighbour villages to place frequent purchase orders with women in their villages to raise pigs and process pork meat according to their quality standard. That is a win-win for both sides. Lan and other business owners can trace product originality and quality; they also have a stable input supply for their production. The families raising pigs are now positive about their husbandry that their efforts will be fruitful even when the market price swings downward.
Lan and her network are now distributing pork products both retail and wholesale beyond Lao Cai province to Ha Noi, Hai Duong and Hai Phong.
The Women’s Economic Empowerment through Agricultural Value Chain Enhancement (WEAVE) project is funded by the Australian Government and implemented by a partnership of three international non-governmental organisations – CARE International in Vietnam, Oxfam in Vietnam and SNV in Vietnam. WEAVE supports ethnic minority women’s economic empowerment in pork, cinnamon value chains in Lao Cai province and banana value chain in Bac Kan province.This will be achieved by promoting equality between women and men within households and producer groups, strengthening women and men producers’ skills and bargaining power, and working with business and government decision-makers to improve the policy environment to support producers.