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Farmers Putting Fish on Diets in South

VIET NAM - The volume of oversized tra fish in the Cuu Long River Delta is increasing day by day.

Experts have warned about an almost certain shortage of tra materials in the next three to four months as farmers have declared they will give up fish farming.

In Tien Giang province, the volume of oversized fish was previously estimated at 3,000 tonnes; however, the figure has soared to 10,000 tonnes now.

Farmers have reduced the amount of food they give their fish as they fear the fish are growing too quickly, but the volume of oversized fish has been increasing rapidly notwithstanding this special diet.

As the volume of oversized fish is bigger than predicted, the sum of VND1tril the government decided to use to rescue tra fish proves to be too small.

Hong Giang of Agifish said that Agifish has borrowed VND40bil from banks, which is just enough to meet 40% of its demand and enough to buy fish from farmers for one week.

“We need some VND60bil more, but we need to wait for the banks’ decisions,” she said.

Not only seafood processing companies, farmers are also waiting feverishly for banks’ decisions. Farmers in An Giang province were informed that a VND35bil credit would be given directly to them, while only VND15bil has been disbursed so far.

According to seafood companies, one should not expect that VND1tril worth of loans can rescue the fish and tra fish industry. They said that they need capital not only to buy fish for processing but to buy materials for storage. However, the current overly high interest rates are unaffordable for enterprises.

Seafood exporters complain that they cannot take the initiative in their business plans as they do not have the right to use the foreign currencies they get in the most effective way. They have to sell foreign currencies they get from export deals to banks at exchange rates determined by the central bank and commercial banks. They have to borrow capital in VND, but in many cases, they cannot borrow the volume they want.

Farmers in Dong Thap and An Giang provinces say that they will give up farming right after they can sell all their oversized fish and be rid of the ‘unlucky crop’. If they do what they are threatening to do, fish materials will be seriously lacking in 3-4 months, and the scenario that seafood processors will have to import materials is foreseeable.

To date, the fish farming and fish processing industry has been focusing on export. Some experts have suggested companies think of conquering the domestic market. In fact, the sale prices of tra products on the domestic market or fresh fish on sale at markets every day are always double the export prices. Moreover, as consumers are afraid of bird flu and blue ear epidemics, and the prices of cattle and poultry meat are increasing sharply, they will shift to eat tra fish.

However, seafood companies do not think it is a good idea to expand the domestic market as it would require a great deal of exertion. Meanwhile, the companies cannot earn foreign currencies from selling products domestically.

The domestic market only consumes 25-30% of total farmed fish output.