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Sector Hauls in $737m as Catfish Exports Recover

by 5m Editor
25 August 2009, at 1:00am

VIET NAM - The export of tra and basa catfish has started to recover, delegates at a teleconference in Ha Noi yesterday agreed.

They were meeting to review the production and consumption of the product in the Cuu Long (Mekong) Delta region.

Viet Nam has exported 334,000 tonnes of tra and basa catfish in the past eight months, worth an estimated US$737 million.

This made the sector the top foreign currency earner among seafood exporters, said vice chairman of the Viet Nam Association of Seafood Exporters and Importers (VASEP) Nguyen Huu Dung.

Exports of catfish have shown signs of recovery in many markets, except in Russia where distorted publicity said Viet Nam did not ensure the quality of the product.

However, the Russian side has now agreed to import 10,000 tonnes of tra and basa catfish a month from September.

Viet Nam is expected to export $1.4 billion worth of catfish this year.

Nguyen Van Dao, director general of Go Dang Joint Stock Company in My Tho Industrial Zone in southern Tien Giang Province, said catfish exports were recovering as a result of economic recovery in key markets - and because of the seafood sector’s efforts in seeking new markets.

He added that the recent establishment of processing companies and a trend to raise catfish on a large-scale would help.

Land set aside for catfish farms in the Cuu Long (Mekong) Delta region has reached 5,154ha, an increase of 597ha compared with last year.

Farmers in the region have harvested 457,000 tonnes of tra and basa catfish so far this year, seeing an increase of 13.5 per cent per month.

At present, Viet Nam has 110 plants producing 4.3 million tonnes of fish feed a year, including 88 plants producing feed for tra and basa catfish.

Since June, processing companies have reduced the price of tra and basa catfish to VND13,500-15,500 per kg.

The drop was attributed to large stocks of the fish plus a reduction in fish prices in some markets. In the European Union, prices fell from $2.63 to $2.47 a kilo.

A farmer in southern Tien Giang Province’s My Tho City, who has raised catfish for 20 years, said the death rate of young fish fries remained a problem for farmers.

He said it had increased to 30-40 per cent, affecting both price and the environment.

The farmer also hoped for an association to regulate prices, so that fish farmers, especially small-scale ones, were not pressured by buyers.

To help ease production and processing difficulties, the Minister of Agriculture and Rural Development, Cao Duc Phat, said there was a need to expand key markets in the European Union, Russia, the Middle East and the United States.

He urged ministries and agencies to publicise the fact overseas that Vietnamese tra and basa catfish products met quality and hygiene standards.

Vice Chairman of the Can Tho City People’s Committee, Nguyen Thanh Son, proposed that the Ministry of Agriculture and Rural Development (MARD) reduce value-added tax (VAT) for fish feed and put the price of fish food under State control.

Vice chairman of southern Vinh Long Province’s People’s Committee Nguyen Van Diep suggested providing interest-rate support for fish farmers and increase investment in electricity and roads in catfish raising areas.

Deputy Governor of the State Bank of Viet Nam Nguyen Dong Tien said the State would continue providing interest support and considering new loan schemes.

Deputy Finance Minister Tran Xuan Ha said he would work hard with MARD to reconsider VAT on fish feed.

5m Editor