Vietnam’s catfish industry looks to higher quality

The Vietnamese Ministry of Agriculture and Rural Development plans sustainable development of tra fish (pangasius) production, focusing on quality control and efficient economic methods.

The ministry held a meeting in Can Tho City on January 18 to review tra fish production and consumption in 2010 and make plans for 2011.

Nguyen Huu Dung, chairman of the Vietnam Association of Seafood Exporters and Producers (VASEP), was of the view that farmers should not raise more tra fish than needed which causes redundancy and devaluation in the market.

He thought that in order to build a stable brand name for the Vietnamese fish in the world market, quality and efficiency must be addressed by tra fish breeders.

Pham Thi Hoa, deputy head of the Agriculture and Rural Development Department of the Mekong Delta province of An Giang, claimed her department was working on a trial working model along with three seafood companies to create better coordination between enterprises, breeders, fish feed suppliers and management agencies.

Enterprises would form the key nodule of the model and would instruct farmers to raise the quantity of tra fish based on orders and the enterprises would then have to purchase the entire produce, she added.

The new working model would be monitored closely by the department, she said.

Difficulties in the past

According to the ministry, tra farms covered about 5,420 hectares in 2010, which was 90.3 percent of the year’s target. Though the farming area had decreased, the fish output rose to 1.141 million tons, equal to 104.6 percent of the 2009 output.

The sector didn’t meet the year’s export revenue target of USD1.5 billion and earned USD1.4 billion from exports of 645,000 tons of tra.

The ministry blamed enterprises that had built up their own brand names and export markets with no thought to the common brand name for the Vietnamese tra fish.

Some enterprises even devalued their products and sold poor quality produce to gain export orders. This subsequently damaged the image of tra fish production.

Last year also saw a severe fish shortage which caused a price hike and financial losses to many Vietnamese exporters who had already signed contracts to export fish at lower rates.

Duong Ngoc Minh, VASEP vice chairman, said that tra fish prices have soared steadily since last October.

At present, exporters buy tra from processors at an exorbitantly high price of VND24, 000 (USD1.2) per kilogram.

This seems like a paradox as even though the price is high many farmers in the Mekong Delta region do not show interest in breeding tra fish.

One reason could be attributed to banks which give limited loans to fish breeders and enterprises.

VASEP warned that 2011 would continue to see a shortage of tra fish, especially in the year’s second quarter. As a result the tra export target of 1.2-1.3 million tons in 2011 will be hard to achieve.

From SGGPDaily

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