People make dried snakeskin gourami in Ca Mau province (Source: VNA)

HCM City (VNS/VNA) - Dried fish making villages in the Mekong Delta are entering their peak production season ahead of Tet (Lunar New Year), which falls on February 5 this year.

They produce various kinds of dried marine and freshwater fish and shrimp, with snakeskin gourami, tra and shrimp being their specialities.

In Ca Mau province, Cai Doi Vam village in the town of the same name has increased production since the 10th lunar month to ensure it can meet the demand.        

Doan Thi Thanh Trang, whose family has been making dried fish for nearly seven years, said the village’s dried fish producers are operating at full capacity now. “My family is increasing production to two or three times the normal volume,” she said.

Nguyen Van Kha, Vice Chairman of the Cai Doi Vam Town People’s Committee, said making dried fish is a very old occupation in the town, with fishermen traditionally keeping aside a part of their catch to make dried fish to sell later.

The profits dried fish offer has attracted many households to the occupation, he said. “The village’s dried marine fish are sold to other provinces and exported.”

They are sold at an average price of 50,000-80,000 VND (2.2 – 3.5 USD) per kilogramme. The village has more than 100 households and companies producing various kinds of dried marine fish, including silver croaker, creamfish and mantis shrimp.

Ca Mau province’s dried shrimp is also in high demand with production establishments in Ngoc Hien district’s Rach Goc town operating at full capacity.

Bui Van Chuong, Director of the Tan Phat Loi Dried Shrimp Cooperative in Rach Goc town, said the town’s dried shrimps are sold in many supermarkets around the country.

The cooperative’s members normally increase production a month before Tet, he said.

In 2011, Rach Goc dried shrimp was granted a collective brand name by the National Office of Intellectual Property.

In Dong Thap province, Phu Tho dried snakehead fish making village in Tam Nong district’s Phu Tho commune has increased production since last month. Each producer in the village makes 200-300kg a day.

The price of snakehead fish increased by 7,000-10,000 VND a kilogramme last month from a year ago but the village’s dried fish producers did not increase their prices. They sell their products at 100,000-230,000 VND (4.3 – 9.9 USD) a kilogramme.

In An Giang province, the Khanh An dried fish making village in An Phu district’s Khanh An commune is famous for its freshwater varieties like tra, snakeskin gourami and snakes.

Its dried snakeskin gourami is sold mostly to Ho Chi Minh City. Its products are also sold to tourists around the province’s famous Ba Chua Xu Temple in Chau Doc town.

Nguyen Thi Hong, owner of a production establishment in Khanh An commune, said snakeskin gourami has less fat than many other types of fish and so, dried, it can be preserved for a long time.

Sometimes, people come to the commune to buy dried snakeskin gourami to send to relatives living overseas, she said.

The village produces around 3,000 tonnes of dried fish a year.

Vo Thi Nhung, another producer in the village, said while her normal output is one tonne of dried fish a day, it doubles before Tet.

“Thanks to this, I and my husband have money to build a good house and bring up our children well.”

During the Tet production season, dried fish producers have to hire additional workers to clean, debone, marinate, and dry the fish in the sun. The workers are paid wages of 150,000-200,000 VND (6.5 – 8.6 USD) a day.

Besides, seniors, women and children can also do certain jobs to earn some extra income when they have free time. They are paid by the hour or quantity.

In Khanh An commune, for instance, fish cleaners, including older people, women and children are paid 40,000 VND (1.7 USD) for removing the scales, guts, bones, and heads of 30 kilogrammes of fresh fish.

Nguyen Thi Ngan, a worker in the commune, said people can earn an average of 20,000 VND per hour.

Phan Thanh Hong, owner of a production establishment, said most people who work for him are farmers who use their free time to earn an extra income.

His establishment is busiest between 2am and 8am and 5pm and 10pm when fresh fish arrive.-VNS/VNA