Pangasius industry should prioritise quality over quantity: govt

Seafood importers’ purchasing decisions are increasingly being influenced by the environmental impacts of aquaculture and whether seafood is being produced sustainably. Fish farmers and processors should thus apply strict standards to make all their operations less environmentally harmful, suggested Pham Anh Tuan, deputy director of the General Department of Fisheries, at a conference in HCM City.

Vietnam exported 153,062 tonnes of tra catfish (pangasius) worth USD 376,430 in the first three months of 2011 – up 5.2 per cent in volume and 21.6 per cent in value year-on-year, To Thi Tuong Lan, deputy general secretary of the VASEP told conference attendees.

The increase in value echoes a rise in export prices and they have been steadily escalating, Lan said.

Pangasius exported to Europe goes for about USD 3.2 – USD 3.3 per kg, up 22 per cent over the end of 2010, and fish shipped to the US fetches nearly USD 4 per kg. Prices are expected to jump by about 10 per cent this year due to supply shortages, reports VNS.

Europe now imports 33.1 per cent of Vietnam’s total pangasius exports, with the US and Japan coming in the second and third positions. Sales to South America, Russia and Asia have also soared in Q1.

Even though exporters and processors were offering high prices, they are still facing tra shortages which are expected to last throughout the year, Lan cautioned.

Thai An Lai, deputy chairman of the Dong Thap Association of Seafood Exporters and Producers, told that many farmers forsook their ponds after incurring big losses in 2010.

“The current escalation in input costs is not going to motivate them to return,” he added. “Farmers have also faced difficulties in accessing bank loans to invest in breeding, forcing them to give up tra fish farming.”

The total tra output for 2011 is anticipated to reach 500,000 tonnes versus last year’s 600,000 tonnes. Many seafood processing plants are running far below capacity.

Luong Le Phuong, deputy Minister of Agriculture and Rural Development, has asked the Fisheries General Department to work with local seafood processors, exporters and authorities to promote an emphasis on quality rather than quantity to allow for sustainable development of the industry.

Authorities should thus carefully assess any new processing factory before approving it.

He also advised companies to develop their own raw material sources by investing in their own farms or working with farmers, he said.

“This challenge is also an opportunity for the sector to restructure,” opined Tuan. “Consumers nowadays not only require good quality products but also require that the production process does not have a negative impact on the environment.”

The department is planning to establish national standards for pangasius and shrimp production based on global Good Agriculture Practices (GAP) norms, Tuan said.

Source: FIS

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