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Overcapacity threatens catfish industry

VIET NAM - Exports of tra and basa catfish are booming, but seafood industry insiders are warning processors to be cautious about excessively increasing their output capacity.

"The growth in sources of tra and basa catfish and in export markets is much slower than the planned growth in processing capacity," said Viet Nam Fisheries Association chairman Nguyen Huu Khanh.

Khanh said annual growth in market demand for tra and basa catfish was estimated at only 10-15 per cent but growth in processing output was expected to reach 50 to 70 per cent.

Processors have enjoyed particularly strong growth in exports in the first two months of 2008, a time of year when export figures usually slump.

Local Concerns

Mean while, the expansion of aquatic product processing factories the Mekong Delta has triggered concerns about shortages of material input for export processing among local factories.

The southern province of An Giang is leading the race in building aquatic product processing factories with 26 factories in operation, producing 220,000 tons of products of tra, basa catfish per year. Local reports say that eight more factories will be put into operation this year, making An Giang the province with the most tra, basa catfish processing factories in the country.

Director of the An Giang Province’s Aquatic Resource Department Nguyen Van Thanh said the province is hoping to reach a total export turnover of US$400-430 million from aquatic products, an increase of 30 percent compared to last year.

The neighboring Dong Thap Province is also calling for more investment to build five to seven new factories with a total capacity of 100,000 tons of aquatic products per year.

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Ellen Hardy

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