Vietnam is facing an urgent need to build brands for its tra fish, a big foreign currency earner, amidst numerous challenges facing the industry.
|Tra fish farming in the Mekong Delta :|
In the Mekong Delta province of Dong Thap – one of the biggest tra fish producers and exporters in the country, local farmers harvested 265,000 tonnes of tra fish in the first half of 2019, during which more than 160,000 tonnes of fish fillets were processed for export, up 25.5 percent year on year.
As of May 31, the inventory at local seafood processing companies was about 34,600 tonnes, according to the provincial Department of Industry and Trade.
Over the last few days, prices of tra fish as well as fingerlings have nosedived to a 10-year low. Factories now purchase tra fish at around 19,000 – 20,000 VND (over 0.8 USD) per kg, down 8,000 VND per kg from the same period of last year, causing a loss of 3,000 – 5,000 VND per kg to farmers.
Ha Buu Khanh, head of the trade management division at the Dong Thap department, attributed the plunge largely to the “overheated” farming expansion since the price surge in 2018, when Vietnam’s tra fish exports hit a record of 2.3 billion USD.
When prices soared, farmers could gain a profit of up to 10,000 VND per kg, triggering a rush on farming expansion which in turn has led to big supply this year, he noted.
Data of the Ministry of Agriculture and Rural Development showed that tra fish output in the Mekong Delta approximated 475,500 tonnes in the first five months of 2019, up 6.2 percent from a year earlier.
Noting the excessive supply as a result of the “overheated” farming development, Chairman of the Vietnam Pangasius Association Duong Nghia Quoc pointed out that some countries with climate conditions similar to Vietnam’s have begun to produce and export tra fish. Several countries like India, Indonesia, Bangladesh and China have strongly expanded their farming areas.
Additionally, Vietnamese tra fish used to be defamed or suffered from groundless anti-dumping duties in foreign markets.
He said the Government recognised tra fish as a national product and a key export item that has been shipped to about 150 countries and territories. However, Vietnamese tra fish no longer holds the dominant position in the global market. Therefore, it is now an urgent need to build brands for tra fish.
The shortage of brands has exposed Vietnamese tra fish to numerous difficulties in foreign markets, including price instability, Quoc said, adding that the sooner brands are built, the more sustainably and effectively this sector will develop.
Brand building is not farmers, businesses or state agencies’ own affair, but it is a long-term work that must pay attention to all steps, from fingerling production, fish food processing to farming technologies, so that finished products meet requirements of importing countries, according to the pangasius association chairman.
Tra fish exports to Southeast Asia rise 14.6 percent
Vietnam’s tra fish exports to Southeast Asian countries were worth 87.3 million USD in the first five months of the year, a year-on-year increase of 14.6 percent, according to the Vietnam Association of Seafood Exporters and Producers (VASEP).
Thailand was the largest market, with shipments rising by 9.2 percent year-on-year to 32.5 million USD.
Thailand’s fisheries imports have risen sharply this year, especially of white-meat fish like tra.
The Philippines has emerged as one of the biggest importers, with purchases rising steadily for months, VASEP said. Tra exports to this market were worth 19 million USD, a 25 percent increase from the same period last year.
Vietnam is the only supplier of white fish to the Philippines.
Last year, Vietnam organised for the first time a festival on rice and pangasius – as tra is also known in the Philippines, helping popularise its pangasius.
VASEP said exports of tra to Malaysia are growing at the fastest rate in Southeast Asia.
In the first five months, pangasius exports to Malaysia were worth 18.8 million USD, an increase of 47.3 percent from the same period last year, it said, explaining that the market has huge potential.
Malaysia also imports white meat fish from China, the US, the UK, France, and others, but Vietnam is the largest supplier.
According to many businesses, Southeast Asia is a market that needs to be paid focus on besides traditional markets such as the US, the EU, China, Japan, and the Republic of Korea.
The country’s overall tra exports in the first five months were worth 690 million USD, slightly less than in the same period last year, with China, the US and EU accounting for 53 percent, VASEP said.
Exports to the US are down due to anti-dumping duties and other trade barriers while China’s changing import policies have affected shipments to that country.
However, exports to the EU increased for the first time in a long time, rising by 31.5 percent to 105.2 million USD.
Truong Dinh Hoe, VASEP general secretary, attributed the increase to businesses’ efforts to ensure quality and promote their products.
According to the association, the tra export target for this year is 2.4 billion USD, a 12 percent increase from last year.
Exports to Japan, the US and China are showing signals of recovery, while exports to the EU are expected to keep increasing thanks to the EU-Vietnam Free Trade Agreement.
In the event, it would not be difficult to achieve the export target this year, he said.
VASEP Secretary General Truong Dinh Hoe says that catfish exports to the EU bounced back in the first months of the year thanks to efforts by processors to improve the quality of products and settle media problems.
The catfish consumption level from the two biggest markets, China and the US, unexpectedly fell in Q1.
VietNamNet Bridge - Vietnam has been advised to increase catfish output to force prices down, to improve competitiveness over other countries. However, this solution has stirred controversy.