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Aquaculture Opportunities in Face of Recession

by the Fish Site Editor
23 January 2009, at 12:00am

VIET NAM - Despite global downturn, export opportunities still exist for aquaculture farmers and producers.

The marine products industry may face a tough new year, as exports are predicted to drop by about one quarter, according to the Viet Nam Association of Seafood Exporters and Producers (VASEP). The Minister of Agriculture and Rural Development, Cao Duc Phat, talked to VietnamNet about the marine-products industry and how it can deal with the global economic crisis.

Would you please tell us what the Government has done to support the marine products industry in this global economic recession?

Last year, the Government started granting subsidies to fishermen to help with high fuel prices and to upgrade ships. At the same time, the Government asked all relevant authorities to increase marine products consumption.

We recognise that this year there will be more difficulties because of a decreased demand in international markets and the problems with global finance. Exports and prices of many major Vietnamese marine products may decrease. Therefore, along with efforts from farmers and enterprises, I think more support from the Government is necessary. We have considered 10 suggestions from the Viet Nam Association of Seafood Exporters and Producers and nine of them have been implemented.

For example, the Government has just adjusted the exchange rate band to 3 per cent, thereby heading towards a flexible exchange rate, and aiming to bring the highest profits for exports.

With regard to credit policies, the Government has always paid attention to exporters, even when we tightened monetary policies. Recently, interest rates have been cut several times. The Government has also ensured a stable capital source for farmers to maintain their aquafarms and keep their incomes. This is also true for enterprises that process and export agriculture and marine products.

At the Ministry of Agriculture and Rural Development, we pledge to increase food hygiene control. We realise that an international standard system for food hygiene and quality management is very important. Food hygiene and quality control conducted from raw material to completed products will help farmers and enterprises save money and increase their competitiveness. Moreover, quality management for fish breeds and food needs to be tightened.

At present, expenditures for aquafarming production have gone down. I believe that thanks to this reduction, local farmers are able to continue farming and receive profits despite the lower selling price.

Can you evaluate export opportunities for local enterprises during the current economic downturn?

Though the international consumption market has narrowed due to the financial crisis, opportunities for marine product exporters still exist. The most important thing for Vietnamese enterprises at this time is that they increase their competitive ability, expand markets, and maintain their current levels of export and turnover. Along with local entrepreneurs, the ministry will strengthen trade promotion for marine products as well as negotiate with other international partners.

Recently, we have signed the economic partner agreement with Japan and I think there will be more opportunities for our marine products to enter that huge market.

I would like to stress that marine products of Viet Nam, like shrimp and pangasius, are providing earnings for millions of farmers and workers. Therefore, I hope the industry will maintain export levels.

Can you comment on co-operation between farmers and enterprises?

Market demands have changed due to the economic situation. Therefore, farmers need to know what the market wants. I recognise that an effective information system between farmers and enterprises is currently lacking. Last year, a lack of information led many farmers to breed large-sized shrimp and fish while enterprises could only export small-sized products.

The ministry will set up an information system but I want enterprises and farmers to actively participate in its establishment. Only they understand what they need to be informed about and what they need to know.

The ministry also knows that the food price for shrimp and fish is still high but we can’t give the order to lower prices. However, we can change the situation by setting up new competitive policies that allow processing enterprises to import food themselves and then provide to farmers. Shrimp and fish food producers will then have to readjust the price of their products. We also pledge not to allow any one company to control the market.

the Fish Site Editor