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Unable to Sell Fish, Farmers are on a Knife-Edge

VIET NAM - Farmers still cannot find buyers for their fish, though Deputy Prime Minister Hoang Trung Hai on June 1 asked commercial banks to provide capital to seafood processors, so that they can buy material fish from farmers.

The bigger losses for the bigger ponds of fish

No considerable improvement has been seen since June 1, when Hai had an online working session with leaders of eight Cuu Long River Delta provinces, and asked them to take necessary measures to help farmers sell fish.

Hai made the request on giving loans to seafood processors after farmers sent a petition to the government, crying for help. In the petition, they said that processing companies refused to buy fish because they could not arrange enough money.

Le Van Hiep, who has 2ha of catfish farming ponds in Phu Tan district in An Giang province, said that farmers are losing VND1mil for every tonne of fish. The bigger the ponds of fish are the bigger the losses farmers will suffer.

In Dong Thap province, 10 seafood processing companies are still purchasing tra and basa fish at VND13,800-14,000/kg.

“We were so happy when hearing that the Deputy Prime Minister had asked banks to give loans to seafood processors. We have been entreating processors to buy our fish, but they shake their heads,” Phan Tan Ket, a fish farmer in Lap Vo district in Dong Thap province, said.

Ket now has some 400 tonnes of unsold fish, and he has to spend VND60mil a day to buy 7-8 tonnes of food for the fish.

The situation seems to be a little better for farmers in Chau Phu district in An Giang province. “The price increased by VND200-300/kg on June 3. Some farmers could sell at VND14,600/kg,” said Nguyen Phuoc Thanh, a tra farmer in Chau Phu district.

Some farmers there firmly believe that prices will go up further in some more days, while others fear that with the export price of less than $3/kg for filet products, processors will purchase material fish at no more than VND15,000/kg. Meanwhile, it is estimated that the production cost for every kilogramme of material fish is VND16/kg.

According to Vo Van Doi, Director of Can Tho Department for Agriculture and Rural Development, there are some 50,000 tonnes of tra and basa fish left unsold among the local farmers. On June 2008, four catfish processing companies registered to borrow capital from banks to collect fish materials from farmers.

According to the An Giang Agriculture and Rural Development, the province will have some 70,000 tonnes of tra and basa fish by the end of the third quarter of the year. The department said that there are over 20,000 tonnes of oversize fish in farmers’ fish ponds.

Nam Viet and Agifish in An Giang province, representing other companies in the localities, have registered to borrow VND450bil from banks to collect 30,000 tonnes of fish left unsold with the floor price of VND14,000/kg. Phan Van Danh, Chairman of the An Giang Aquaculture and Seafood Processing Association (AFA), said that farmers would still incur losses with such a price; however, the heavy burden now on farmers will be eased.

The unanswered questions

It’s now time to harvest an estimated 120,000 tonnes of fish in the Cuu Long River Delta. The sum of VND1tril ($57mil) capital Agribank promised to loan to processing companies can only help ease the difficulties at this moment, while this cannot help settle farmers’ lack of capital.

To date, the Can Tho Seafood Association has asked to borrow VND500bil to buy material fish from farmers. Dong Thap province has asked to borrow VND565bil. An Giang province has asked to borrow VND450bil.

Danh from AFA said that fish farmers still cannot breathe a sigh of relief even though the government has promised to give loans and the state-owned bank Agribank promised to provide $57mil worth of capital. Processing companies are still insisting on the previous price of VND13,800/kg.

Ellen Hardy

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