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Vietnamese Tra Swimming Against the Tide

by the Fish Site Editor
01 June 2009, at 1:00am

VIET NAM - The tra fish industry is bogged down in a stalemate that shows no sign of breaking as farmers choose to abstain from breeding and exporters are hit by falling demand.

According to the Aquaculture Department under the Ministry of Agriculture and Rural Development, the total area for tra fish (pangasius) farming has shrunk 30 per cent from a year ago, after farmers hit by huge losses stopped breeding them.

In the Mekong Delta province of An Giang, for instance, the current tra fish area is about 1,000 hectares, 400 hectares less than last year. The output in April dropped 20 per cent from March to around 25,000 tonnes.

Meanwhile more than 360 hectares of tra fish ponds in Dong Thap Province have been left idle for a year. The tra fish output of the province is expected to drop by 40 percent by the end of September.

Shrinking fish farms will lead to raw material shortages for processing enterprises at the end of the year, the Aquaculture Department warns. Tra fish can be farmed throughout the year in the Mekong Delta and farmers start harvesting their crop after six months.

Downstream plight

The situation is not much better downstream for the tra fish industry with processors and exporters facing their own difficulties.

Seafood exports in the first four months fell 6 per cent from a year earlier to $1.05 billion as the global recession hurt demand. Tra fish exports alone fell 0.42 per cent in volume terms to 161,826 tons, the industry’s first ever contraction.

The Ministry of Agriculture and Rural Development said falling demand, together with several allegations in important markets like Russia, Egypt and Italy that Vietnamese tra fish was unsafe, caused many difficulties for local exporters.

Russia in April lifted a ban on imports of seafood products from Vietnam that it had imposed last December. Although the market has been reopened, exporters say prices are still low, at around $2 per kilogram of tra fish.

the Fish Site Editor