Pangasius catfish is popular among consumers throughout Asia including producing countries such as Bangladesh, Malaysia, Indonesia and Myanmar, with farming also taking place in India, the Philippines and Thailand.
Annual Indian imports of pangasius exceeded 1,500 tonnes with West Bengal (Kolkata) alone taking 500 to 600 tonnes. Industry sources, however, report that imports have slowed down recently owing to higher export prices from Viet Nam.
In the Middle East, according to the Emirates National Customs, the UAE imported nearly 3,500 tonnes of frozen pangasius fillet.
Imports of pangasius into global markets will increasingly face analysis in terms of quality, which is already taking place in several markets. Some producers are already addressing this issue. Processors and exporters were encouraged to move from quantity to quality so that both fish breeding and farming could proceed in a sustainable way. The sector was also encouraged to look at environmental concerns, as well as seeking certification via GlobalGap standards.
Indonesia has introduced import regulation to ensure the quality of imported fish and to curb trade fraud. This is mainly to encourage the domestic industry to use local fish.
Brazilian authorities are imposing quality checks on fishery imports. Also recently three of UK’s largest retailers, Tesco, Asda and Morrisons, removed pangasius from their shelves because it was found to be contaminated with significant levels of additives used to retain water in the fish.
Viet Nam was the largest producer of pangasius
VASEP reported that tra catfish farmers will only be able to produce 900,000 tonnes of tra catfish, equivalent to about 360 000-380 000 tonnes of fillets. The shortage was most severe during the first half of the year and resulted in an almost nine per cent fall in exports from Viet Nam to the EU market.
Many banks refused loans to tra fish farmers in the last two years. VASEP set minimum export prices to encourage prices to rise. Processors in the Mekong Delta paid up to VN$ 24,000 (US$ 1.18) per kilogram, the highest price on record while farmers earned a profit of VN$ 5 000-6 000 (US$ 0.25-0.30) per kilogram.
VASEP reported a total of 319,350 tonnes of pangasius exports during the first half of this year, with an export value close to US$ 830 million, which is 28 per cent higher than last year.
According to Eurostat, the EU imported 95 306 tonnes of pangasius fillet during the January - June period of 2011, down by nine per cent compared with the same period in 2010. On the other hand, the value of imports, increased by 5.2 per cent reaching US$ 250 million, with average import prices higher by 14.4 per cent to US$ 2.62/kg from a year ago.
In Spain, the largest single market for pangasius in the EU, supplies fell by 19 per cent from January to June 2011. The other two big importers, Germany and Poland, also posted negative growth during this period but imports to the Netherlands increased by 6.7 per cent against the same period in 2010.
During the first six months of 2011, the USA imported nearly 38,000 tonnes of catfish of which 36,5000 tonnes were pangasius. 95.6 per cent of the fish came from Viet Nam. Imports from Viet Nam increased 79 per cent in volume and 105 per cent in value compared with 2010. The average export price was 12 per cent above the price registered in period January-June 2010, reaching its peak in May at US$ 3.79/kg.
Overall domestic catfish supply in the USA was lower in 2011 compared with 2010, as a result of the reduction in producing areas. In 2010, catfish moved up one step from 10th position in 2009 to 9th position, confirming its growing popularity.
Pangasius moved into the top 10 list of most popular seafoods in the USA, the question is if pangasius will emulate tilapia’s rapid rise in popularity.
As far as taste, availability and affordability are concerned, it fits the bill, but there are more problems to be overcome, such as the change in regulatory oversight from the USDA to the Department of Agriculture as well as supply problems in Viet Nam.