Tra and basa output alarmingly high

The Fish Site
by The Fish Site
10 July 2007, at 1:00am

VIET NAM - According to the Ministry of Fisheries, the output of farmed tra and basa increased sharply in the first six months of the year, estimated at 400,000 tonnes, an increase of 100% over the same period of 2006.

Alarm bells are ringing over the very high productivity of tra and basa, which is believed to be causing environmental problems. The fish are now being bred in the centre and the north and not only in the traditional southern provinces.

The high price of tra and basa, which is now hovering at VND17-17,500/kg, has prompted people to farm fish on a large scale. The flip side of the overly ‘hot’ development of fish farming is that it has caused a serious lack of breed fish and increased prices of food for fish and chemicals.

According to the Ministry of Fisheries, tra and basa farming has developed to an uncontrollable rate with the farming density of 300-500 tonnes per hectare, which, as experts have warned, will have bad impacts on the environment.

Meanwhile, farmers in central and northern provinces are happy with the successful farming of catfish on a trial basis, which, as forecast, will encourage them to farm on a larger scale. In Ha Tay province in the north, farming brought the high yield of 80 tonnes per hectare, and in Nghe An in the central region, farmers could yield 150 tonnes per hectare. Here farmers can produce breed fish and keep parent fish through the winter.

However, experts have warned against the massive and unplanned farming of tra and basa. They said that the high production costs and low competitiveness would make farmers suffer. Moreover, a problem in processing and consumption will arise as the demand is not big enough in the domestic market.

There are 70 tra and basa processing workshops in the Mekong River Delta provinces which have the total capacity of 1.5mil tonnes a year. Yet, the establishment of the workshop does not match the development of the material area. An expert from the Ministry of Fisheries said that the biggest risk in processing and exporting seafood was that enterprises could not control material supplies.

In May 2007, Vietnam exported 27,700 tonnes of seafood, reaping $79mil, decreasingly slightly from the previous month, while still increasing considerably over the same period of the previous year. The total tra and basa exports in the first five months of the year brought $375mil in turnover, fulfilling 37.5% of the targeted turnover (over $1bil).

The fact that Russia has tightened control over chemical residues in imported seafood has greatly impacted exports of Vietnam, with exports to Russia and the Ukraine down considerably in May 2007.

Tra and basa will remain the foundation of exports of frozen products of Vietnam.

The EU has become the biggest importer of Vietnam-sourced seafood, consuming 24.4% of Vietnam’s exports, after Japan, which has applied strict control over imports from Vietnam, and dropped to third position. The US is the second biggest importer (18.3%), followed by Japan (17%), South Korea (7.4%), Russia (5.2%), China (5.1%), ASEAN (5.8%) and other markets (16.7%).

Frozen fish products remain the biggest export item (49% in quantity and 35% in turnover), followed by frozen shrimp (16% and 39%, respectively), and frozen cuttlefish (6.9% and 6.7%).