Tra, basa catfish prices continue to increase

The Fish Site
by The Fish Site
3 March 2007, at 12:00am

HA NOI - The Ministry of Fisheries has announced that the price of tra and basa catfish rose to VND18,000 a kilogram in February from VND16,000 a month earlier.

Officials again attribute the price hike to reduced supply levels after farmers in the southern provinces of An Giang, Can Tho, Tien Giang decided to switch their ponds from tra and basa to fish species that offer a more stable income. Tra and basa prices over the past few years have fluctuated heavily.

Seafood companies also blame the recent trend on breeders withholding fish on price speculation.

Truong Dinh Hoe, deputy general secretary of the Viet Nam Association for Seafood Exporters and Producers (VASEP), remains confident prices will eventually fall in the near term with output in 2007 expected to rebound to one million tonnes, a year-on-year increase of 20 per cent.

Hoe says catfish stocks that hit the market this month will help stabilise prices.

An Giang Province, the biggest tra and basa supplier in the Cuu Long (Mekong) Delta, reaped US$43.2 million in revenue from exporting 18,000 tonnes of catfish in January and February.

The An Giang Fisheries Association (AFA) has also signed an agreement with the Bank for Agriculture and Rural Development (Agribank) to provide about VND700 billion ($43.8 million) to help farmers improve quality standards.

The AFA predicts the province’s catfish exports this year will reach $300 million, up 54 per cent compared to 2006. The fisheries ministry estimates that tra and basa exports nationwide will hit $1 billion with prices on the global market averaging $3.5 a kilogram.

The ministry also predicts that seafood export to the EU will increase by around 10 to 15 per cent.

The AFA is concerned that with such profit growth forecasted for 2007, farmers will increase the number of ponds dedicated to tra and basa breeding, potentially creating huge price swings in the market.

Ngo Phuoc Hau, chairman of Fisheries Committee under the VASEP, also voiced concern that rapid growth would lead to improper pond management, specifically in water quality.

If pond water is not properly treated, the death rate of fish could increase, causing financial instability for farmers.

He added that ponds needed to be properly managed not only for financial reasons but also to even out price fluctuations in the local market.