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Minister Assures Vietnam of Tra Fish Rescue

VIET NAM - The Ministry of Agriculture and Rural Development (MARD) said that enterprises will purchase all the tra and basa fish left by the end of August. MARD Deputy Minister Luong Le Phuong talks about this.

Are you sure that the task of rescuing tra fish has been successful?

In 2007, the average export price of one kilogramme of farmed tra and basa products was $2.7/kg, while the price dropped to $2.33/kg in the first five months of 2008. The total tra volume left unsold was 170,000 tonnes in early June.

On June 1, 2008, Deputy Prime Minister Hoang Trung Hai chaired a meeting between leaders of ministries and branches and local authorities of the eight provinces in the Cuu Long River Delta to discuss how to consume all the fish left in order to ensure sustainable production.

In the first month after the meeting, banks lent VND1,139bil worth of capital to enterprises and tra farming households. By July 20, the fish volume left had reportedly reached 120,000 tonnes. By mid August, the volume had decreased to 90,000 tonnes. New markets like Russia, the Middle East and some Asian countries have increased their imports of tra and basa from Vietnam. Seafood processing workshops are now running at full capacity. I can say for sure that all the fish will be purchased by the end of August.

Fish farmers complain that they have to undersell fish, some others have given up farming. What do you think we need to do to ensure profit for tra fish culture?

MARD has submitted to the government a plan on tra and basa farming development, which considers ecological balance in the areas of the Tien and Hau rivers. Enterprises are now trying to make high value-added products, and make by-products from tra fish like fish fat and bio diesel to optimise profit.

Tra and basa are special products that nature has conferred on the Cuu Long River Delta, and we need to preserve and exploit this valuable source of income. In principle, the consumption of seafood products of different kinds in Europe and developed countries will increase between September and October.

Once we have a catfish farming development strategy, we will take initiative in production and export.

Vietnam now has 168 enterprises that export tra and basa, but only 57 have processing workshops. Some businesses complain that the fierce competition has led to the export price decreases and lower product quality. What will Vietnam have to do to improve the quality of tra and basa products?

Recently, some associations and importers in Europe complained about the low quality of Vietnam’s exports, and some of them have threatened to not import products from Vietnam anymore if the situation cannot be improved. The quality and brand name of Vietnam’s tra and basa fish has become a national issue, therefore, the state’s intervention will be necessary.

I have asked five leading seafood companies to sit together to discuss setting a floor export price to ensure the high quality of products and profit of exporters. I will also ask them to carry out regular inspection over the exports quality. Enterprises which violate current regulations will be disciplined or have their licences revoked.