Aquaculture for all

Sustainable Farming Key To Pangasius Exports

Sustainability Economics +3 more

VIET NAM - The environmental impacts of aquaculture and sustainable production practices have become important factors in purchasing decisions made by export markets, experts said on Tuesday (25 April).

Farmers, breeders and processors should be aware of this and apply strict standards in all their operations, Pham Anh Tuan, deputy director of the General Department of Fisheries told a conference in HCM City, according to an official source.

The conference, which focused on tra (pangasius) exports, heard that Viet Nam exported 153,062 tonnes of the fish worth US$376,430 in the first three months of the year, an increase of 5.2 per cent in volume and 21.6 per cent in value over the same period last year.

While releasing these figures, To Thi Tuong Lan, deputy general secretary of the Viet Nam Association of Seafood Exporters and Producers (VASEP), said that the increase in value reflected a rise in export price.

There has been a steady increase in the export price for tra fillets of late, according to Ms Lan.

Tra fish shipped to Europe fetches about $3.20 to $3.30 per kilo, up 22 per cent over the end of last year, while US shipments fetch higher prices of nearly $4.00 per kilo.

The prices are expected to increase by another 10 per cent or so in the coming months because of supply shortages.

Currently, EU is the largest importer of Vietnamese tra fish, accounting for 33.1 per cent of the country's total pangasius exports, followed by the US and Japan.

Pangasius export to South America, especially Brazil, Russia and several Asian countries has also surged strongly in the past three months.

Material shortage

However, Ms Lan also cautioned against optimism, saying several challenges still lay ahead, including a shortage of raw material and rising production costs.

Although exporters and processors were offering high prices of VND28,500 to VND28,800 per kilo, they were still finding it very hard to get enough tra fish, she said.

This scarcity was expected to last until the year-end, she added.

Thai An Lai, deputy chairman of the Dong Thap Association of Seafood Exporters and Producers, echoed Ms Lan's concerns, saying that many farmers abandoned their ponds after incurring big losses last year.

He said: "The current escalation in input costs is not going to motivate them to return. Farmers have also faced difficulties in accessing bank loans to invest in breeding, forcing them to give up tra fish farming."

The total tra output is estimated at 500,000 tonnes this year, about 100,000 tonnes less than in 2010.

Many seafood processors in southern provinces are upset about the severe shortage in raw materials, as their facilities are running far below designed capacity.

Nguyen Huu Dung, Vasep deputy chairman, said high interest rates and the increase in production costs caused a lot of difficulties for processors and exporters.

Acknowledging the problems, Luong Le Phuong, deputy Minister of Agriculture and Rural Development, advised enterprises to "review and cut unnecessary costs and seek measures to use electricity more efficiency to lower their production costs".

He also asked the Fisheries General Department to work with local seafood processors and exporters as well as local authorities to encourage a shift from quantity to quality so that fish breeding and farming could develop in a sustainable manner. Authorities should carefully assess the situation before approving any new processing factory, he said.

He also advised enterprises to develop their own raw material sources, either by investing in their own farms or entering into formal agreements with farmers, he said.

Pham Anh Tuan, deputy director of the Fisheries General Department, agreed with Mr Phuong, saying the current difficulties were rooted in the quantity-based development that had taken place over the last 10 years.

He said: "This challenge is also an opportunity for the sector to restructure. Consumers nowadays not only require good quality products but also require that the production process does not have a negative impact on the environment."

Mr Tuan continued that his department was collecting ideas from businesses and relevant agencies for a new decree on pangasius production and consumption that could be submitted to the Government for approval by the end of May.

Based on global Gap (Good Agriculture Practices) norms, the department plans to set up national standards for pangasius and shrimp production, according to Mr Tuan.

The department also expects to sign a Memorandum of Understanding with the GlobalGap organisation in May for training Vietnamese staff in application and certification of GAP standards.

Applying GAP in pangasius production would help ensure their quality and reduce environmental impacts as well as diseases that affect the crop frequently, he said.

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