Although the supply of farmed pangasius in Viet Nam was lower in 2009 than in 2008 because of poor demand and lower prices, by the end of the year processors had managed to turn the situation around and the total value of exports almost reached the 2008 level, ending at US$ 1.34 billion. Prices of pangasius went up slightly by the end of December, with supply about 30 per cent lower than at the end of 2008, reports Globefish, FAO Fisheries Department.

US growing market for Vietnamese pangasius

The USA greatly increased imports of pangasius in the first ten months of 2009 compared with the same period of 2008. Despite several difficulties, such as import tariffs and the issue of whether or not to revert to calling pangasius catfish again, exports to the US reached 34 500 tonnes, an increase of 72 per cent compared with the same period last year.

The US is now Viet Nam’s fourth largest market. Some of the main exporters even supplied over 50 per cent of their 2009 production to this market. US import statistics mirror Vietnamese export data; between January and September 2009, some 26 800 tonnes were imported by the US according to national customs statistics, which compares with 18 200 tonnes one year earlier. Viet Nam is the main supplier of catfish to the US market, accounting for 65 per cent of total imports. Catfish from China, which has to go through a rigorous control process by US control bodies, declined sharply in 2009.

Others markets were less attractive for Vietnamese catfish producers, and production was reduced in Viet Nam by 30 per cent, as the economic situation was not very positive. Russia, which used to be by far the largest market for Vietnamese catfish in 2008, was closed to Vietnamese products in the opening months of 2009, which resulted in a 66 per cent reduction of imports in 2009. Likewise Ukraine, the second largest market, had to cut imports by 49 per cent as a result of the difficult economic situation in the country. While the Russian market recovered somewhat in the closing months of 2009, Ukraine did not show any signs of improvement.

Western European markets, on the contrary, were more encouraging for Vietnamese pangasius, as its low price was well accepted in the present economic situation. Thus Spain and Germany became the top two importers of Vietnamese pangasius, expanding their imports by seven per cent and four per cent respectively during 2009. Overall EU imports of pangasius in 2009 were on a par with the 2008 imports.

Pangasius: Viet Nam
. 2007 2008 2009
1000 tonnes
EU 172.8 224.3 224.1
Russia 48.7 118.2 39.5
Ukrain 23.0 74.4 37.7
Asean 33.8 34.0 43.5
China & HK 18.2 18.5 19.4
USA 21.2 24.2 41.6
Mexico 14.3 23.2 31.1
Egypt 6.3 26.6 26.1
Others 48.7 97.6 144.7
Total 387.0 640.0 607.7

Total Vietnamese pangasius exports were 607 700 tonnes in 2009, a five per cent decline from the record high 2008 figures. The value declined by seven per cent during the same period to US$ 1 342 million.

The average unit value of Vietnamese pangasius exports over the whole year was US$ 2.20/kg which compares to US$ 2.25/kg. The US market offers the highest value for exports, where USD 3.20/kg is paid, while values are lowest in the Russian and Ukraine market with US$ 1.65/kg. However, as the US market buys value-added products, such as breaded fillets, while the former USSR countries import fillets with little value-addition, these figures should not be compared directly.

2010 will be a difficult year

In 2010 the US farming bill could change the situation dramatically for pangasius imports when it is released. This bill would identify pangasius as catfish and put it under the rather restrictive sanitary control of the US Department of Agriculture. It has still not been set in motion and the consequences remain uncertain at present. The Russian market is the other unknown entity, and should the major buyers decide not to purchase, as happened during 2009, these products will flood the Western European market, creating many problems for the industry.

In addition, the Vietnamese government is planning to invest heavily in pangasius farming. Once the production from these investments comes on the market, the total annual production will be 1.6 million tonnes, which means 600 000 tonnes of additional product could swamp the market and adversely affect the current strong price situation.

April 2010

the Fish Site Editor

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