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Delta Tra Fish Farms Still Face Difficulties

VIET NAM - It costs between VND2 and VND3 trillion to collect 100-170,000 tonnes of tra fish now and in order to save the aquaculture, not only money is needed, according to official Vietnamese sources.

Tra is still selling at low prices of VND13,800-VND14,000/kg and policy makers believe that seafood processing companies would buy all the fish stocks if they had capital. However, even when they have the money capital, it is not so easy for farmers to sell fish.

Truong Thanh Huy, who has 3 hectares of tra ponds in An Giang province, now has 100 tonnes of tra. He said he sold the fish for VND13,800/kg. but did not lose money even at this price, because he had fed the fish with homemade fish food, but he added that at this price other farmers would suffer losses.

According to Huy, in order to have 2,000 tonnes of fish every year, he needs about VND15bil but as banks are tightening up on credit, tra farmers are facing big difficulties.

Phan Van Danh, Chairman of the An Giang Aquaculture and Seafood Processing Association, said farmers farm fish ‘in movements’. If they find someone making profit with fish ponds, they will rush to pour money into fish ponds, too, ignoring the warnings of newspapers and relevant ministries. As a result, farmers cannot sell fish and suffer heavy losses.

Danh said that An Giang farmers have never seen such a poor tra crop as now.

An Giang now has nearly 1,400 ha of tra fish ponds, which provided 180,000 tonnes of fish in the first six months of the year, reaping $170mil ($320mil is the target turnover for the whole year 2008). There are now over 20,000 tonnes of oversized fish, while 10,000 tonnes of fish are due to be harvested.

The products of An Giang’s seafood companies now appear in 60 countries and territories. With the bank loans, An Giang seafood companies have committed to buy all 30,000 tonnes from farmers at the floor price of VND13,800/kg.

Duong Nghia Quoc, Deputy Director of the Dong Thap Agriculture and Rural Development Department, also said that there are tens of thousands of tonnes of fish being kept among farmers that need to be collected. The locality has asked the Bank for Investment and Development of Vietnam to raise the limits of loans to be given to seafood processing companies.

Local companies have registered to borrow VND565bil from banks, including Vinh Hoan, Docimexco, Thanh Hung Ltd, Hung Ltd, Toan Phat Production and Trade, and Cadovimex.

According to Vo Van Doi, Director of Can Tho Department for Agriculture and Rural Development, Can Tho city now has 50,000 tonnes of fish to sell, including 20,000 tonnes that needed to be consumed immediately (1kg/fish). The Can Tho Seafood Association has asked for loans of VND500bil for seven enterprises to collect all oversized fish.

Seafood processors also crying

The representative of a tra export company in An Giang province said that enterprises are facing a lot of difficulties in dealing with the oversized fish. If the state and enterprises do not have suitable policies, farmers’ risks will be transferred to enterprises’ shoulders. Enterprises now have to pay the high interest rate of 20 per cent per annum and many other kinds of expenses. Meanwhile, filet prices are tending to decrease recently.

Quoc from Dong Thap agriculture department also said that enterprises now are facing difficulties from the big volume of fish, limited processing capacity and high interest rates. Very few workshops have the processing capacity of 300 tonnes a day, while most workshops can process 50-100 tonnes a day only.

Processing companies now tend to have fish ponds themselves, which can help them become more self-sufficient in materials. Analysts say that the ponds can provide 10-50 per cent of materials.

Seafood processing companies and local agriculture departments have asked the government to subsidise 100% or 50% of bank interest rates in order to help seafood companies purchase all oversize fish until August 2008. However, there has been no response from banks and the government.