Catfish breeders in troubled waters despite export surge

Exports of the tra catfish have risen since early this year, but many breeders in the Mekong Delta are on the verge of bankruptcy as they’ve had to sell the fish at below breeding costs.

Farmers harvest tra catfish in the Mekong Delta

Exporters and/or seafood processors have been buying tra catfish for VND15,500-16,000 per kilogram, while breeding costs have climbed to VND16,000-16,500 per kilogram.

Mekong breeders have suffered losses for the third consecutive year, and many of them have been forced give up their vocation as a result.

Meanwhile, the Minsitry of Agriculture and Rural Development has said that tra fish exports rose 8.23 percent in the first seven months.

Lam Minh Chieu, chairman of the An Giang Province People’s Committee, told Sai Gon Giai Phong that farmers in An Giang in particular and the Mekong Delta in general have been struggling with increased breeding costs and unchanged selling prices.

He said it costs VND1.6-1.7 billion to farm 100 tons of tra fish, and a breeder typically farms between several hundred and several thousands of tons.

Meanwhile, the export market for tra catfish has expanded steadily. Even in 2008, when the global economic crisis hit and many sectors were in turmoil, the export of tra catfish was not affected, Mr. Chieu noted.

Mr. Chieu said exporters have not cooperated with each other on pricing, and importers were controlling prices as a result, hurting local breeders.

What should be done

For the tra catfish sector to develop sustainably, all the main aspects – breeding, processing and exporting – need to be improved, Mr. Chieu said.

He said Mekong Delta provinces have asked the Prime Minister for permission to establish a tra catfish association to formulate development strategies and production plans; and to expand export markets.

If the PM’s approval is obtained, the association is expected to be established in the third quarter of this year.

The association would help resolve current problems in the sector and protect breeders.
It would work to ensure proper investment in production techniques, strengthen cooperation between breeders and exporters, and improve quality, Mr. Chieu said.

By Huynh Loi – Translated by Hoang Yen

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