The export turnover of aqua products in 2012 is likely to reach 6.8 billion USD, about 200 million USD or 12 percent higher than the previous forecast.

However, the news is not all good for many farmers who can't get loans and have been forced to temporarily stop production. The price of tra fish has also dropped and the price of feed risen in the same period.

According to Vu Van Tam, Deputy Minister of Agriculture and Rural Development (MARD), export turnover in 1991 was 1.2 billion USD. In 2011 the figure had jumped to 6.1 billion USD.

Tam said in June this year, Vietnam earned 550 million USD from seafood exports. This brought export turnover for the first six months to a remarkable 2.9 billion USD, an increase of 10.6 percent against the same period last year.

Nguyen Ngoc Oai, director general of the Department of Aqua Products Exploitation and Protection attributed the success to fishing units set up by fishermen.

"Since the new model was introduced last July, more than 2,400 fishing units have been established", said Oai.

However, the economic downturn in Europe has had a serious impact on Vietnamese aqua-product enterprises. The number of enterprises involved in export activities dropped 40 percent in the first six months.

In addition, the export price of a kilo of tra fish has dropped to 20,000 VND (0.95 USD) from 22,000 VND (1.05 USD). Meanwhile the price of fish feed has increased by about 10 percent (23,000-25,000 VND/kg).

This has cost farmers about 5,000 VND a kilo and forced up to 60 percent of households rearing tra fish in the Mekong Delta to temporarily stop production.

Duong Nghia Quoc, director of Dong Thap Province 's Department of Agriculture and Rural Development, said part of the problem is a lack of capital investment.

"It is estimated that more than 80 percent of tra fish farmers need cash, but high interest rates and a shortage of loan has hampered them," Quoc said.

Due to the shortage of capital, many Vietnamese enterprises are forced to lower the selling price of tra fillet from 3 to 2.6 USD, making survival difficult.

Nguyen Danh Hien, director of the Minh Phu Aqua Product Company in Kien Giang Province said he needed about 1 billion VND to raise one hectare of shrimps. However, he could only borrow up to 30 million VND because he didn't have much collateral.

When he approached a bank for credit, he was told shrimp raising was too risky and banks didn't want to loan money.

To help farmers overcome difficulties, the Vietnam Association of Seafood Exporters and Producers (VASEP) has asked the Government to urgently loan 4,400 billion VND (214.6 million USD) to tra fish farmers and 6,000 billion VND (293 million USD) to shrimp farmers.

VASEP wants the Government to levy an interest rate of less than 10 percent a year.

Deputy Minister Tam said MARD will do its best to attract more investment from the foreign direct investment (FDI) sector.-VNA