The Ministry of Agriculture and Rural Development has targeted to earn US$2 billion from catfish exports this year, accounting for 31.5 per cent of the fishery industry’s total export value.
This projection was stated by Nguyen Ngoc Oai, Acting General Director of the Directorate of Fisheries, at a conference to carry out tasks within the industry held in Can Tho late last week.
To reach this target, the industry will need to breed some 2.2 billion catfish, to be able to deliver an output of more than 1.3 million tonnes of catfish products.
To meet its targets, Oai said that the industry needs to improve the quality of catfish breeding, besides enlarging export markets.
The industry must also create a production and processing chain to encourage farmers to team up with catfish processing companies to ensure a balance between supply and demand, he said.
Also at the conference, catfish exporters said they are facing a lack of raw materials, which pushes prices of raw catfish to peak at some VND75,000 ($3.3) per kilo, up VND20,000 compared to late last year.
Ong Hang Van, Deputy Director of Truong Giang Seafood Joint Stock Co, attributed the severe shortage to the significant loss of catfish before the Tet (Lunar New Year) holiday due to unfavourable weather conditions.
Van further said catfish farms are lacking high-quality catfish breeds, which negatively affects the quantity of fish during the growing process.
He added that his company, together with other processors, is willing to contribute capital to the No 2 Aquaculture Research Institute to produce catfish breeds that will guarantee strong supplies.
Further, Duong Nghia Quoc, chairman of the Viet Nam Pangasius Association, said the Government should support firms in producing catfish breeds since it is costly.
At the conference, experts also expressed their concern about the importing of Vietnamese catfish via a small-scale by Chinese buyers.
According to Vo Dong Duc, director of Caseamex, it is troubling that China has recently imported a substantial amount of Vietnamese catfish via a small-scale.
“There are some potential risks associated with it,” he added.
Representatives of the Ministry of Industry and Trade added that some measures should be implemented to efficiently control the industry, making it a “fair game” for other firms that also export catfish in both large and small scales.
Given the significant number of small purchases of catfish that Chinese buyers have made, it is difficult to track the total amount of catfish sold.
Deputy Minister of Agriculture and Rural Development Vu Van Tam has requested a special meeting with the Ministry of Industry and Trade on how to solve the matter and boost exports of catfish to China in a larger, more official scale.
“We can’t prohibit small-scale exports, but we have to increase monitoring to ensure equality among buyers to enhance our position in the industry,” he said.
According to a report of the Viet Nam Pangasius Association, the Chinese market accounted for 6.4 per cent of the total export value of Vietnamese catfish in 2014 and 10.3 per cent in 2015,
The figure increased to 17.8 per cent in 2016 and 23 per cent in 2017, making China the largest importer of catfish.
The total export value of Vietnam’s catfish in January reached $172.5 million, a year-on-year increase of 43.7 per cent, of which catfish exports to mainland China, Hong Kong and ASEAN countries increased sharply, while exports to the EU market continued to decline.
Ngo Quang Truong, director of Bien Dong Seafood Company, said that more emphasis should be put on the US market since this would lead to other markets. — VNS