Dong Thap farmer fishes his way to snakehead success

When they got married and started a new life together, Phan Van Chung and his wife received a small gold ring and a rickety boat from their families.

Natives of An Giang, the couple moved to Dong Thap, another province in the Cuu Long (Cuu Long (Mekong) Delta), to try and earn their living there. Read more of this post


Dong Thap: Export turnover of pangasius reached US $319 million

In 2010, although instable economic situation affected fisheries sector’s operations negatively, particularly, pagasius export and production, seafood output of Dong Thap province was estimated to reach more than 357.000 MT, equal to 100.99 percent in comparison with planned target, 42.7 percent increase compared to the previous year. Read more of this post

Dong Thap: Pangasius export up 42.7 % in volume

Pangasius export reached US$ 319 million, up 43% y-o-y

Despite the turbulent economic situation which adversely affecting Pangasius farming, Dong Thap reported itsPangasius output exceeded 357,000MT, fulfilled 100.99 percent of the yearly plan. Pangasius export reached US$319 million, up 42.7 percent year-on-year.

The provincial fishery association has been actively joining hands with relevant sectors to hold training courses forPangasius farmers and encourage them to comply with BMP, GAP, Global GAP standards. It has also made efforts to tighten the solidarity and unity among its members in production, marketing and social activities.


Source: Dong Thap Newspaper


Vietnam: in Dong Thap Province Pangasius export is expected to increase 30%

According to the Dong Thap Department of Statistics, the province’s Pangasius exports reached 12,049MT in December 2010, worth around US$30.9 million.

In 2010, Pangasius export amounted to 117,080MT, totaling US$299.2 million, up 29.9 percent in volume and 32.8 percent in value year-on-year.

Despite numerous technical barriers raised against Vietnamese Pangasius, Dong Thap still enjoyed stable export earnings. The export markets increased to more than 60 countries and territories worldwide.

In domestic market, selling price of Pangasius increased by VND8,000/kilo compared to the same period of 2009. Currently, Pangasius is sold at VND23,000-23,500/kilo, bringing profits to farmers. However, the increasing feeds price, interest rate, labor costs, etc. still held them back. Many seafood processors are predicted to be in a shortage of raw material because of limited supply.


Pangasius: Hoand Long Group built a Pangasius production complex on alum paddy-field area

Pangasius farming in Viet Nam emerges from the floating cages on the Tien and Hau rivers, then moving into riverside ponds. It gradually becomes the done thing in this industry that one must settle the fish pond near big, water-flowing rivers if he or she is really serious about the business. The first technical lesson they learn is to stay away from the acidic or alkaline area as far as possible if they do not want to harvest scraggy and yellow fish. Therefore, it was great surprise for us to see that Hoang Long Group built a Pangasius production complex in the low-lying center of Dong Thap Muoi, i.e. Tram Chim commune, Tam Nong district, Dong Thap Province.
A “crazy” move
The Pangasius industry has witnessed tremendous growth over past ten years. Farming ponds and processing plants sprang up like mushroom in the Mekong Delta. The once-abandoned land area along the Mekong River now becomes more crowded and more expensive than ever before.
One may wonder why Pangasius farmers have to choose the riverside to settle their ponds? It might be the convenience of water supply and discharge. Intensive, large-scale  Pangasius farming requires daily water exchange as high as 30%. Therefore, if you are located near the river, you can escape the burden of fetching the water over long distances.
Taking care about the water quality in Mekong River, samples have been taken regularly in the bustling the fish farming area to make sure the Pangasius farming does not affect the environment. Results show the flowing Mekong river water is still clean no matter how turbid it looks. However, the practice of farming near the rivers remains an excuse for a number of bad campaigns against Pangasius abroad.
Battered by negative rumors, rising land acquisition price and declining land available, the convenience of farming Pangasius near the river seem to be no longer an advantage.
Adversity brings knowledge, and knowledge wisdom. Hoang Long Group (HLG) decided to bring Pangasius ponds to the alum paddy-field area in Dong Thap Muoi – a bold move that surprises many like the first time the fish was shifted from cages to ponds.
It is quite interested to know that Hoang Long Group has been long involved in almost every thriving field in Viet Nam, from tobacco, minerals, taxi, transportation, water supply, infrastructure construction, real estate, beverage, to bio-fertilizer – everything but fish farming. It was not until recently that Mr. Pham Phuc Toai, HLG Chairman cum General Director started to get seriously about Pangasius farming and processing. However, once setting his mind on such venture, he does everything to make it works. Therefore, a whole complex of Pangasius production called Hoang Long Seafood was set up in the vast vacant land full of wild grass in Dong Thap Province.
The complex has almost all things, from Pangasius feed production factory, hatchery, farming ponds, fish processing and fertilizer plant (for treatment of the farming discharge). Such integration allows the Hoang Long Seafood to keep the material supply, product quality and environment issues under control. It is also a challenging target that many large Pangasius producers are striving to shoot.
Perhaps, Dong Thap people,particularly Pangasius farmers, would never think that such a modern and expensive complex will originate in such farmed fish – free area even in their wildest dream. When it actually happened, many laughed and called the investor “nuts”.
Farming Pangasius in the alum paddy-field area
The idea of farming Pangasius in the alum land of Dong Thap does not seem to be nuts at all. “We did study the area and found that the alkaline layer lay at 0.8 metre below the paddy-field surface. So we do not dig the ponds beyond that depth. Instead, we built up the farming pond banks to maintain the standard depth. By doing so, the farming water will never be alkalified and the fish meat is always white,” said Mr. Nguyen Thanh Mong, Director of Hoang Long Aquaculture Farming Company Limited, a person who follows the Pangasius farming industry for nearly 20 year.
The water fetching pipe to be embedded in the pond banks

Keeping the pond high above the paddy-fields means that the company has to pump the water in everyday and that is costly. However, the waste water does not necessarily need to be pumped out like in the normal ponds but can automatically discharge through the culverts at the bottom of each pond to a sediment and treatment ponds on the same level as the paddy fields.

“The river – bank ponds’ bottom is always muddy. Here, the soil is completely solid. This is another advantage for us as we can thoroughly remove the waste deposit at the bottom of the ponds. That makes our water quality better and the fish meat whiter”, said Mong.
The issue of quality of input and output water was also dealt with properly. Hoang Long has two farming areas, 50 ha each, both are near the processing factory. Instead of directly fetching and discharge water from/to a branch river nearby, Hoang Long Seafood built a 700m-long, 30m- wide and 7m-deep channel and a nearby pond to store and treat water before use. It also dedicated an area of 7.2ha of sediment pond to keep waste water in each farm.
The waste water treatment ponds are cleverly stocked with filter feeders such as clam, vegetable, etc. to reduce the pollutants. They will also be regularly pumped by the dredging pump to take out the mud and waste deposited at the bottom, which in turn become “raw materials” for the company’s fertilizer plant.
Mong reckons that the company will save quite an amount of money with such system as it does not have to pay for the water treatment chemicals, antibiotics, and other expenses related to water pollutions.
Besides the water quality, feed and stocks are the integral components of a successful Pangasius farming business because they decide the growth and survival rate of the fish farmed.
Keeping this fact in mind, feed factory was the first facilities built in Hoang Long complex. In just five months after its establishment, the factory supplied 6,000- 7,000MT of Pangasius feed each month to the fish farms in the Mekong delta (4% of the total market share).
Hoang Long Feed is used for the company’s fish farming

“Our feed conversion ratio (FCR) is about 1.43, much lower than the normal ones. Fish farmed by Hoang Long feed can reach 1kg after just 4 months and 12 days of farming from the stocked size of 28 animals per kg. With such high efficiency, Hoang Long feed becomes increasingly popular in this area,” said Chau Minh Dat, General Director of Hoang Long Seafood.

For the stock, Hoang Long is currently sourced from reliable suppliers for healthy juveniles.     However, the company will set up its own 24ha hatchery by the end of the year and gradually replace the purchased juveniles with self- made ones.
With 100 hectares of farming area, the company can self-supply as much as 70% of the raw materials for its 150MT/day processing plant. The remaining 30% will be collected from its “satellite” farmers, who are contracted to rear the fish in their ponds but using the company’s feed and stocking the juveniles from the designated hatchery (even the company’s juveniles when Hoang Long hatchery come into operation).
To ensure the satellite stuff works, the company sends a technician to each contracted farm to guide the farmers and keep an eye on the fish from the time of stocking to harvest.
“Any large Pangasius producers would finally come to this integration stage. So there is no better way than to take a short cut and reach this goal right at the beginning if such new comers like us want to be more completive,” said Dat.
Such vision resides in every single part of the company’s venture. Farming ponds designed in compliance with Global GAP standards right at the beginning is a small example that Dat gave us.
Where there’s a will…
The investment required for such huge complex could make anyone’s head spin. However, the company’s bigger issue is human resources. Like many fish processing company in the region that need thousands of workers to maintain constant operation, Hoang Long’s most intense concern is to find enough workers and keep them on the job.
So, right at the beginning, Hoang Long has joined hand with a training center to teach 200-300 local people and employ them. The company also pledges to build tenement houses for non-resident workers on the spare 7ha land near the factory. At the time being, the company is subsidizing part of the house rental fee for them as the tenement house project is underway.
“Our workers’ salary is among the highest in the region. One worker can earn as much as VND 7-8 million (3.5-4.0 US$) per month. On regular basis, there is a worker skill competition and those who win will be awarded,” Dat said proudly.
Given the effective motivation schemes, Hoang Long was able to hire 1,500 workers, enough for the company to operate in its first phrase (80MT of raw materials per day).
It should be noted that though HLG and the owner himself has never been involved in Pangasius industry before, they have a strong cadre of deputies and assistants who are experienced professionals in their fields. Mr. Dat and Mong are among those examples.
Now the company is enjoying its first rewards. It export turnover triples each month from the date of its inauguration in February this year.
Someone may say that Pangasius industry is at the bottom of its own crisis. But I believe that it will take off again when driven by a new, young and dynamic generation like Hoang Long


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