Tra fish farming in the Mekong Delta (Photo: VNA)

Dong Thap (VNA) – Vietnam is facing an urgent need to build brands for its tra fish, a big foreign currency earner, amidst numerous challenges facing the industry.

In the Mekong Delta province of Dong Thap – one of the biggest tra fish producers and exporters in the country, local farmers harvested 265,000 tonnes of tra fish in the first half of 2019, during which more than 160,000 tonnes of fish fillets were processed for export, up 25.5 percent year on year. 

As of May 31, the inventory at local seafood processing companies was about 34,600 tonnes, according to the provincial Department of Industry and Trade.

Over the last few days, prices of tra fish as well as fingerlings have nosedived to a 10-year low. Factories now purchase tra fish at around 19,000 – 20,000 VND (over 0.8 USD) per kg, down 8,000 VND per kg from the same period of last year, causing a loss of 3,000 – 5,000 VND per kg to farmers.

Ha Buu Khanh, head of the trade management division at the Dong Thap department, attributed the plunge largely to the “overheated” farming expansion since the price surge in 2018, when Vietnam’s tra fish exports hit a record of 2.3 billion USD.

When prices soared, farmers could gain a profit of up to 10,000 VND per kg, triggering a rush on farming expansion which in turn has led to big supply this year, he noted.

Data of the Ministry of Agriculture and Rural Development showed that tra fish output in the Mekong Delta approximated 475,500 tonnes in the first five months of 2019, up 6.2 percent from a year earlier.

Noting the excessive supply as a result of the “overheated” farming development, Chairman of the Vietnam Pangasius Association Duong Nghia Quoc pointed out that some countries with climate conditions similar to Vietnam’s have begun to produce and export tra fish. Several countries like India, Indonesia, Bangladesh and China have strongly expanded their farming areas.

Additionally, Vietnamese tra fish used to be defamed or suffered from groundless anti-dumping duties in foreign markets.

He said the Government recognised tra fish as a national product and a key export item that has been shipped to about 150 countries and territories. However, Vietnamese tra fish no longer holds the dominant position in the global market. Therefore, it is now an urgent need to build brands for tra fish.

The shortage of brands has exposed Vietnamese tra fish to numerous difficulties in foreign markets, including price instability, Quoc said, adding that the sooner brands are built, the more sustainably and effectively this sector will develop.

Brand building is not farmers, businesses or state agencies’ own affair, but it is a long-term work that must pay attention to all steps, from fingerling production, fish food processing to farming technologies, so that finished products meet requirements of importing countries, according to the pangasius association chairman.-VNA