Vietnam: Minh Phu Shrimp “super-plant”construction sprinting

Inaugurated on 17 August 2010, Minh Phu Seafood Corp.(Ca Mau) is rushing to complete the 40,000MT/year shrimp processing plant in Song Hau industrial park of Hau Giang province in order to put it into operation in April this year.

Minh Phu shrimp processing “super-plant” will be put into operation in April

With the total capacity of an estimated 40,000 tons of shrimp/ year, Minh Phu Hau Giang plant is sprinting to be accomplished with an invested capital of VND1,000 billion.

Besides this VND1,000 billion plant, Minh Phu is also constructing a series of facilities such as the cattle feed plant, packaging plant, technical service and trade centers, cold storage and seaport in 58ha of Song Hau industrial park. The total capital invested into the complex is VND3,000 billion.

“The plant works with the cutting-edge technology which can save raw materials, fuel and time, thus decreasing the product price by about VND5,000/kg,” Mr.Le Van Quang, CEO of Minh Phu Seafood Corp. said

It is expected that upon its operation, the plant will create 14,000 jobs and produce 20,000 tons of shrimp, which enables Minh Phu to meet and surpass its export turnover plan of US$420 million in 2011.



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


Vietnam: Seafood plants struggle with lack of raw material

Seafood processing plants in Mekong Delta provinces on November 24 said that they have been running under 50% capacity because they cannot collect enough materials for processing despite tra fish price has been risen to record high levels.

The higher price was due to higher domestic consumption demands and a shortage of supply.

Yesterday, tra fish were being sold from VND20,000 – 22,000 per kilogram, a month-on-month increase of VND5,000 per kilogram.

According to Deputy Minister of Agriculture and Rural Development Luong Le Phuong, tra fish industry is facing with difficulties due to shortage of materials.

He said more and more farmers were becoming less inclined to invest in aquaculture, despite the price of seafood on the world market is increasing.

In addition, farmers in Mekong Delta don’t want to raise tra fish because the price has remained low since 2008 and the cost of feed keeps increasing, Phuong said.

Meanwhile, technical barriers are raised by importing markets to protect domestic production. Not only the U.S. Department of Commerce imposed antidumping tax of 130 percent on Vietnamese tra catfish, several other countries like Ukraine, Mexico and Spain also introduce stricter measures to control the Vietnamese fish. Worse, EU continues making difficulties for Vietnamese catfish due to its high competition.

To ride out current difficulties, the Ministry of Agriculture and Rural Development petitioned government to support seafood companies to overcome the hardships.

Vietnamese companies need to boost tra manufacturing and processing efficiency by improving quality rather than quantity.

The ministry also is coordinating with related departments to set up floor prices, which is calculated upon cost factors, including cost of raw materials, to ensure profits for farmers.

The ministry said price slumps caused many farmers to abandon tra fish culturing, threatening the supply of materials and affecting the sustained development of processing industry.

Businesses proposed the ministry to zone aquaculture area and orient raw material production and distribution and to build the image of Vietnamese tra catfish in the hearts of global consumers and avoid misleading rumours about the quality of catfish in Vietnam.

Truth behind propaganda campaign against Vietnamese Pangasius fish. By Mr. Dương Minh Trị seafood consultant in Vietnam

Recently I’ve noticed an active campaign to promote negative propaganda about Pangasius (Basa, Swai, Striped Pangasius fillet) products of Vietnam. Certain parties are trying to condemn Vietnamese Pangasius products, one of the most tasty, nourishing and wholesome white meat farmed fish produced in the world. These people have used various means to make their claims seem legitimate, no matter how unethical they are, such as hiring secret crews to film biased and out-of-context footage that depicts unclear fragments of content. They then use this information to portray only negative aspects of the general image of Pangasius production in Vietnam.

Needless to say, we all know the culprits that stand behind this propaganda campaign. This is the same old story of an unfair attack generated by competitors from other countries that have conflicting interests.

Since the end of 90’s, thanks to great taste, consistent quality and reasonable pricing, the volume of Vietnamese Pangasius fillet (River Cobbler, Swai, Basa, etc) imported to US and E.U. markets has increased considerably. This is partially due to many restaurant chefs preferring to use Vietnamese Pangasius fillet after evaluation of quality.

The presence and acceptance of Viet Pangasius fillet products has angered some competitors. To fight against this, these competitors have been using mass media. They create propaganda materials including video footages, photos, and fragments of news from any available sources, no matter how unreliable and trustworthy these sources are, and use them to provide misinformation and distort the image of our Vietnamese Pangasius fillet products in the market place.

In November 2000, a delegation of about 20 visitors, including professors from the Auburn University (Alabama) and catfish raising and processing companies went on a fact-finding tour in the Mekong Delta region of Vietnam.

They made detailed surveys of the actual conditions of feeding and farming, for fish both in floating cages and inland ponds. They also visited various processing plants. At the conclusion of the tour, they praised the farming technology and equipment applied for fish breeding, feeding and farming; and found no grounds to lodge complaint about food safety and hygiene conditions throughout the processing cycle. At that time, if the Pangasius processing industry in Vietnam had problems, the US Food & Drug Administration (FDA) would have banned the import of our Pangasius products, but this was obviously not the case.

After this fact-finding tour, competitors found that they could no longer request the ban of Pangasius import because of issues on food safety or hygienic conditions. Instead, they started using anti-dumping protectionism. In 2003 they won the first battle when US Department of Commerce (DOC) imposed a very high anti-dumping duty rate upon Vietnamese Pangasius products imported into US.

Since then, these same competitors have constantly provided misinformation through their propaganda materials.

I wrote this letter to provide some information to clarify the truth behind these false accusations:

I live in Can Tho City, the center of the Mekong Delta area. Millions of delta inhabitants have used drinking water from Mekong river for thousands of years and we will continue to use water from this river for the future.

We can be confident of the water quality because the Mekong River water is closely observed and monitored by the Mekong River Commission (please refer to for more information). It is also monitored by MeREM (Mekong River Ecosystem Monitoring), a project that began in April 2004 with the financial support of the Ministry of Education, Culture, Sports, Science and Technology (MEXT) in Japan. The monitoring is implemented by core organizations (University of Tsukuba and National Institute for Environmental Studies), sub-organizations (Tohoku University and Yamanashi University), and the International Committee of MeREM composed of 10 members from Japan, P.R. China, Lao PDR, Cambodia, Thailand and Viet Nam (please refer to for more information).

Since 1999, the US, FDA, and E.U. veterinary authorities have received regular findings of such inspection reports on the quality of the water in aquaculture areas of Vietnam and the findings on the control of toxic residues in Pangasius fish raised in Vietnam. These reports show that the indicators of residue of heavy metals and fertilizers collected from 30 stations in the Mekong lower reaches are much lower than the international permissible levels. Justifiably, because this region is still under developed.

In addition, Vietnam’s Ministry of Agriculture and Rural Development have long banned harmful fertilizers & pesticides.

The arguments that the Mekong River water is dirty, or that the river is one the most polluted rivers on the planet containing chemical and industrial waste are totally wrong.

Those making these accusations have clearly failed to provide any scientific proof to back up their assumptions. If there is such contamination, how could our Pangasius fillet product shipments have passed numerous tests made by US, FDA, and E.U. veterinary authorities at arrival ports?

Below are listed some overseas consumer’s comments, praising our fish:

Chef Bernie on March 22, 2010 said:

“We have been serving Pangasius for 6 years as a fried fish sandwich. It is one of our most popular dishes. I have never heard of anyone not feeling well after eating one. I get complements all the time that we have the best fish sandwich in the city.”

Brian Hanson on March 22, 2010 said in response to one of these propaganda articles:

“This article is ridiculous scare-mongering and utterly discredits. I eat River Cobbler regularly. I have never had any ill effects. I know at least a dozen other people who have eaten it with no ill effects. I stumbled upon this page through Google based on this I won’t bother reading any of their other reports.”

Writer’s notes: This article refers to the slandering propaganda posted on Internet. River Cobbler: another name of Vietnamese Pangasius used in US market several years ago.

Gary Scheldt on March 23, 2010 said:

“This is nothing more than propaganda from US and European industry protectionists who want you to purchase their more expensive product than the cheaper high quality imported fish. No sources, no scientific data, just outrageous claims which rely on people’s gullibility to believe them. Don’t be taken for a fool. As has been stated above, if Basa has been eaten by millions of people millions of times over the past 10 years where is the epidemic of poisoning? If it was dangerous why is it still being imported and passing ALL food quality and safety tests in all countries it is exported to?

Incidentally the Mekong river is snow melt from the Himalayas and is a fast flowing river it is probably less polluted that many US or European rivers. Don’t be played for a fool by people who want you to buy their more expensive product.

I hope above information helps to clarify the truth behind propaganda materials being presented to turn customers away from our Vietnamese Pangasius fish.”

What I say to these competitors of our Pangasius is Fair Play!

Dương Minh Trị


Vietnam: Seafood industry cramped by material shortage


Shortage of raw material in Vietnam

This year, Vietnam’s seafood industry is able to achieve export target of US$4.5 billion, however, it still is facing a raw material shortage.

The shrimp and tra fish prices have been skyrocketing, while processing factories cannot purchase enough materials and run just 50% of capacity.

Meanwhile, the country’s shrimp and tra fish export have been increasing, but its shrimp and tra fish output is not increasing accordingly.

According to Nguyen Xuan Nam, general director of Hai Vuong Co.Ltd, flooding in central in May and June caused a decline shrimp and tra fish output. Many processing factories had to import material to maintain their operations and jobs for over 2,000 workers, he added.

Processing factories in the central region are operating 30-40% capacity due to material shortage.

Supply has also dropped because many fishermen are reluctant to go fishing offshore. Natural disasters such as typhoons and floods often occurring in Central Vietnam also largely affect seafood export.

According to Vietnam Association of Seafood Exporters and Producers (VASEP), exploited seafood output will face difficulties to achieve 2.1 million tons per year in next years.

In past years, many factories had to import material around 140,000 – 150,000 tons of seafood of different kinds each year, worth $300-320 million.

Japan is the biggest export market for Vietnam, however, Vietnam also has to import material from Japan.

VASEP said that if seafood industry just replies on domestic material, seafood export is able to achieve maximum $4 billion per year only.

Seafood processing factories need to import around 650,000 tons of material in next years, an increase of four times compare to 2010.

To increase seafood export turnover by 2020, factories need to import $2 billion of seafood material.

Europe faces pangasius shortage


Source: Qualasa Expertise

The Dutch and Scottish politicians who are launching vitriolic attacks on Vietnam’s pangasius industry — likely without any firsthand knowledge of the industry — may get their wish to reduce imports of the inexpensive, Vietnamese-raised fish, but through no efforts of their own. Europe is already facing a shortage of pangasius, and the situation is only going to get worse.

Vietnamese processors are receiving such low prices for IQF pangasius fillets from European buyers — USD 2.80 to USD 3 per kilogram CIF for best quality fish (100 percent white with a 5 percent glaze) — that they’re stockpiling the fish in cold storage in Vietnam. Companies such as Bianfishco are reportedly holding upward of 10,000 metric tons of product each, while waiting to see what happens to a U.S. measure, part of the 2008 Farm Bill, that would transfer the responsibility of inspecting pangasius from the Food and Drug Administration to the Department of Agriculture, which would effectively slow imports considerably.

If the decision on the measure, which is expected in January, favors the Vietnamese, then the stockpiled supplies will be released to the U.S. market. IQF pangasius fillets are currently fetching USD 3.70 per kilogram CIF U.S. ports, which is at least USD 0.70 per kilogram higher than two years ago and about 30 percent above what European importers are paying.

If the decision goes against the Vietnamese, then processors will be forced to seek alternative markets.

There is already far higher demand for pangasius in Europe than there is fish available. The buyer for Globus, a major discount retailer in Germany, has publicly stated that he could sell twice as much pangasius than he has been able to buy but cannot get a hold of it. (Observers have estimated that Vietnam could easily sell about 2 million metric tons (round weight) of pangasius worldwide, double the amount that farmers are currently producing.)

The shortage in Europe is likely to last until May when the new harvest becomes available. This means that European retailers, some of whom can sell four to five containers each per week, will miss both the vital Christmas/New Year and Easter periods. (Each container has 20 metric tons of fillets on board.)

However, it is far from certain that the shortage will ease in May. The Vietnamese Ministry of Agriculture and Rural Development (MARD), which includes fisheries, is so concerned about the low prices being paid for pangasius in Europe, and the hardship it’s causing to Vietnamese farmers, that it is stepping in to restrict the volume of pangasius produced in 2011 to 1 million metric tons, the same as it was in 2009.

To achieve this, the ministry will limit the number of farming licences and set a minimum farm-gate price of VND 18,000 (USD 0.92) per kilogram, as this price has dropped to as low as VND 13,000 (USD 0.67) per kilogram. The ministry also wants to improve the product quality and thus hopes to raise the export price of pangasius to well over USD 3 per kilogram.

There have been several attempts by the Vietnamese Association of Seafood Exporters and Producers (VASEP) to impose a minimum selling price for pangasius in Europe and other regions of the world, but none have been successful. Now it seems that the government has lost patience and will itself try to impose controls on both the farmers and the processors who buy in pangasius from independent farmers.

How they intend to do this hasn’t yet been revealed. And it must be pointed out that the prognosis isn’t good, as previous attempts to impose minimum prices for pangasius have all failed. But, if the MARD is successful this time, then European importers will continue to face shortages. So the European politicians may get their wish, but European consumers will be deprived of a source of good, cheap whitefish.

Source: Seafood Source.