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Vietnamese Fish Prices Soar; but None to Buy

VIET NAM Tra fish has soared to VND16,500-17,000/kg in the last two days after staying firm for a long time at VND14,000/kg. However, the price increases have not made farmers happy.

“Seafood companies will die if they do not change the way they treat farmers,” said Phan Van Danh from An Giang Seafood Association

Nguyen Thien Phap, a farmer in Hoa Lac commune in An Giang province, said that the price has increased, but he does not have any more fish to sell. Other farmers in the same commune said that fish have run out.

"Seafood companies will die if they do not change the way they treat farmers"
Phan Van Danh, Chairman of An Giang Seafood Association

In previous years, August was when Cuu Long River Delta farmers rushed to harvest tra crops to serve the demand, which soared after summer months and served increased exports, as the demand in the world increased on Christmas and new years. However, the situation is quite different now. Fish have been nearly sold out, while ponds have been left idle.

Phan Van Danh, Chairman of An Giang Seafood Association, said that only 10% of total output is left in the province. This spells that very few farmers will benefit from the price increases.

Le Chi Binh, Deputy Chairman of the association, said that even with the increased prices (VND16,500-17,000/kg), farmers will not make a profit since production costs have soared to VND18,000/kg.

Therefore, Binh said, the price increases are not big enough to persuade them to go back to farming.

According to the An Giang Industry and Trade Department, the demand for tra imports is increasing sharply in Russia, Ukraine and Eastern Europe. However, the increased demand has been worrying seafood exporters as they cannot find materials at this moment. 70% of farmers have reported not making re-investments in fish ponds.

The Dong Thap Agriculture and Rural Department has reported that the fish farming area has decreased by 350 ha, equal to 105,000 tonnes of material fish.

Meanwhile, according to Danh, farmers have been facing heavy losses, so they dare not return to farming. Other farmers, who want to keep farming, cannot access bank loans due to the policy on credit tightening. Danh said that on average, farmers have to invest VND4-5bil in every ha of pond surface area, while they have been relying on bank loans.

Danh also implied that enterprises turned their backs on farmers when farmers needed to sell fish, and this is the reason they are suffering from the material shortage.

“Seafood companies will die if they do not change the way they treat farmers,” Danh said.

Danh said that the current serious shortage of tra fish materials showed that officials and the Vietnam Association of Seafood Exporters and Producers (VASEP) were not right in blaming the price decreases in the past on overproduction.

“Statistics show that the fish output in 2008 only increased by 15-20% over 2007, which fits the demand increase of the market. Right after farmers sold the fish they had, enterprises faced a material shortage,” Danh said.