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Catfish Farmers Trapped over Support Loans

VIET NAM - Catfish farmers in the Mekong Delta have yet to benefit from an emergency fund set up by the central bank last month to support the industry.

A total of VND1 trillion (US$59.4 million) was set aside to help catfish processors and exporters buy tra and basa catfish from farmers struggling with falling prices and oversupply.

The farmers were also able to borrow from the fund but they report that they have had difficulties accessing the money.

They say that proving the value of their farms to banks is proving challenging because they need to show an effective catfish production plan.

Feed prices are now between VND8,700 ($0.52) and VND10,000 ($0.59) per kilogram and expected to double in the near future and now most catfish production plans no longer seem effective.

Tien Giang authorities said only VND5.6 billion ($332,600) has been loaned out so far of the VND100billion ($5.94 million) allocated to catfish farmers.

The industry says that because the farmers cannot afford to continue to feed catfish, they have to sell them even before they are fully-grown, which is causing catfish prices to fall even more.

Vinh Long authorities said catfish farmers are suffering a VND1, 500-VND2,000 loss per kilogram as catfishes prices are now between VND13,500 ($0.80) and VND14,000 ($0.83).

Meanwhile, catfish businesses, which prefer deferred payment deals with farmers instead of borrowing money from banks, often pay farmers 30-45 days after buying catfish, leaving breeders in further financial difficulties.

In Dong Thap Province, authorities said about 20 per cent of pond area used for catfish production has been suspended as farmers cannot afford to continue to breed the fish.