To cope with increasing climate change and trade barriers, the Vietnamese tra fish industry must alter its current production method and focus more on the domestic market, said Agricultural and Rural Development Minister Nguyen Xuan Cuong.
Difficulties stemming from global warming, prices and export taxes will force the tra fish industry to enhance product quality and reduce cost, said Cuong at a conference on Wednesday organised by the Ministry of Agriculture and Rural Development (MARD), the Steering Committee for the southwest region and the People Committee of An Giang Province.
He also explained that export difficulties offer opportunities on the domestic market with 92 million potential consumers. Vietnamese tra fish producers and processors must work together with farmers in the value chain, as well as the government of Viet Nam, to create a trademark for domestic tra fish, establish an advantage and gain market share without succumbing to the shift in prices.
A number of aquacultural businesses have successfully implemented their own tra fish farming area, from eggs to hatcheries to adult fish, complete with their own feeds and veterinary medicine to create a closed production chain from start to finish, said Nhu Van Can, Director of Aquaculture Department, MARD.
According to Can, the Mekong Delta had 4,786 commercial tra fish farming ponds, of which 2,267 are privately owned (47.38 per cent), 2,486 owned by businesses (51.95 per cent) while only 32 belong to local co-operatives.
However, links between production and distribution have been less than close between businesses and individual farmers in many areas, ranging from provisional contracts to mass buying problems. Small farms have also been facing difficulties in working with exporting companies.
The Mekong Delta needs mỏe than 30 billion tonnes of tra fingerlings annually for export, yet the quality has been neglected and isolated from the rest of the production chain, said Duong Ngoc Minh, President of Hung Vuong Group. As such, the final product has been affected in terms of both quantity and quality.
Tra fish exporters have petitioned the MARD to allocate resources to improving high quality production of tra fish hatchlings in regions with an advantage in said production and creating a sustainable integration in terms of feed, aquacultural and veterinary medicines between fish farmers and exporting companies.
Minh also said that his company had sponsored more than 50,000 experimental fisheries in An Giang from input to output.
In 2016, the prices for tra hatchlings at fisheries fluctuated between VND18,000 and VND23,000 per kilo ($0.81 to $1.03), down $0.2 compared to 2015,. At the moment the selling price of tra fish is still largely dependent on export demand and payment methods, though farmers are still making profits.
According to a report by the MARD, at the end of November 2016, the total area for industrial tra fish fisheries reached 4,552 hectares, with an annual capacity of 1.047 million tonnes. Total export turnover could reach $1.67 billion, up 6.6 per cent from 2015.
The 2017 tra fish market is expected to reach $1.7 billion, up by 10 per cent compared to 2016.
Viet Nam is currently exporting to 140 global markets, four markets more than in 2015, with its main markets being the United States, the European Union, China, ASEAN, Mexico, Brazil, Colombia and Saudi Arabia.