Trade patterns facilitating highly pathogenic avian influenza virus dissemination in the free-grazing layer duck system in Vietnam.
Highly pathogenic avian influenza (HPAI) viruses continue to threaten smallholder poultry producers in several South-east Asian countries, including Vietnam. In particular, the free-grazing duck system has been repeatedly highlighted as a major risk factor for HPAI outbreaks. Free-grazing ducks, which scavenge on rice paddies after the harvest, account for a large proportion of the duck population in Vietnam and the wider South-east Asian region. However, the structure and dynamics of the free-grazing duck production from farm to consumption has not been described for Vietnam. In this study, we used a value chain approach to provide a complete picture of the actors involved in the production and marketing of free-grazing duck eggs and spent layer ducks, as well as to investigate the governance structure of this food system. Group interviews and key informant interviews were conducted in two provinces located in the Mekong River Delta (MRD) and the Red River Delta (RRD). The results presented here highlight similarities and differences in farming and trade practices between the two provinces. The trade of spent layer ducks involved large volumes of live ducks being sent to China and Cambodia for consumption, generating a substantial risk of transboundary spread of pathogens, including HPAI viruses. We describe the major role of "duck yards", which act as hubs in the northbound trade of spent layer ducks. These yards should be considered as essential links in the value chain of spent layer ducks when considering HPAI surveillance and control. The veterinary authorities are only marginally involved in the value chain activities, and their influence could be strengthened by increasing surveillance activities for instance in duck yards. Last, we discuss the dynamics of the duck value chain and further implications for future HPAI management policies.