Fishery Sales Earn Big But Goods Run Thin

The export price of Vietnamese aqua products is higher than ever but producers are finding it hard to meet the increasing demand.

After a year of serious success, Vietnamese fisheries are finding the ever-increasing demand overwhelming. The sector’s overall annual financial goals will be met, but the possibility of meeting demand in the future is in jeopardy.
 
Demand, price, export up

Some farmers on Ca Mau peninsula are cheerful as the price of tiger shrimp increases daily

After two difficult years in 2003 and 2004, Viet Nam’s fishery exports have bounced back and exceeded both last year and this year’s target plans.
 
The prices of aqua products such as tiger shrimp and catfish are on a noticeably dramatic incline. Experts forecast that exports of aqua products will continue rising sharply and prices may even skyrocket during the Christmas and New Year holidays.

This year’s aqua product exports are forecast to exceed US$3 billion while the year’s initial plan was to reach US$2.8 billion. According to the Ministry of Fisheries, the country’s aqua product exports this year has already amounted to about US$2.3 billion.

This year’s turnover of shrimp export alone is estimated to reach US$1.4-1.5 billion.
 
Although anti-dumping suits in the U.S. market have hurt the export of frozen shrimps, Vietnamese exporters have quickly shifted to other markets. For example, Viet Nam has surpassed Indonesia to become the largest shrimp exporter to Japan.
 
Some farmers on Ca Mau peninsula are cheerful as the price of tiger shrimp increases daily. Merchants are scrambling for every tiger shrimp in Ca Mau, Bac Lieu and Soc Trang provinces.
 
Recent prices have increased on average by VND15,000-25,000 per kilogram compared to the year’s earlier crops. 
 
“Shrimp has never gone for prices as good as these before,” says shrimp farmer Bui Van Dam in Ca Mau Province. “It has never been so easy to sell the shrimp either.”
 
Shrimp farmers all over Ca Mau and Ben Tre provinces are earning huge profits with these high prices. 
 
“I made a VND250 million profit from selling shrimp grown on a 3.8-hectare,” says shrimp raiser Nam Thu in Ben Tre Province.

While salt water shrimp is making a killing, freshwater tra and basa catfish are also earning billions of VN dong for farmers.
 
Ba Liep, a fish farmer in An Giang Province, says, “With the current prices so stable, farmers can easily make profits. I just sold around 400 tons of catfish and earned around VND800 million.”
 
But whereas these sales have been easy for some farmers, others are finding the opportunity difficult to take advantage of and can’t produce enough goods.
 
Demand difficulties
 
President of the Viet Nam Association of Seafood Exporters and Producers Ho Quoc Luc is reserved about recent seafood-industry successes.
 
He is worried about a severe shortage of raw shrimp in the Mekong Delta region. Many factories were not prepared for the sharp rises in demand and have seen their productivity reduce due to un-preparedness. They cannot ensure that they will meet export demands.
 
General Secretary of Fisheries Exporting and Processing Association of Ca Mau Province Ly Van Thuan said, “Merchants are rushing to buy shrimp but cannot buy enough. As many as 23 fishery processing factories in Ca Mau are operating only at 50-60 percent of their capacity.”
 
Raw shrimp is in a shortage due to a lack of investment in breeding shrimp, decreasing area of shrimp farms and damages incurred by recent diseases. Many farmers are not willing to invest in shrimp enterprising this late in the shrimp season as they are unsure how long the high-prices and demand will last.
 
In such situation, prices of raw shrimp will keep rising, but the large scale benefits to the overall Vietnamese fishery industries are uncertain.
 
Additionally, Luc told to a Sai Gon Giai Phong newspaper that, “Early this year, quality became a survival matter because Japan, the EU and the U.S. intensified strict safety and hygiene investigations on our imported products.”
 
“Our exporters have made a great effort towards reaching these nations’ standards, however, Japan recently detected antibiotics in some of our frozen squid, tra catfish and shrimp imported from Viet Nam.”
 
“Crucial importance must be attached to this matter. Appropriate authorities need to warn farmers not to use antibiotics in breeding fishery products,” he said.

By Phuong Uyen, N.Ngoc – Translated by Yen Chuong

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