Rocky year for Vietnamese pangasius
By Steven Hedlund, SeafoodSource editor
17 July, 2009 -
It's been a rocky year for Vietnam's pangasius industry.
Last year, the pangasius industry was marked by oversupply. The situation worsened toward year's end, as demand subsided due to the global economic crisis and prices dropped even further.
Some pangasius farmers abandoned their ponds because they couldn't break even. According to the United Nations' Food and Agriculture Organization, the area dedicated to pangasius ponds in the Mekong Delta had slipped by 600 hectares, to 5,240 hectares, by year's end, and 30 percent of pangasius ponds in Vietnam's An Giang and Dong Thap provinces are currently vacant. Due to the supply shortfall, prices increased in the first half of this year.
After years of aggressive growth, pangasius production has leveled off this year. Vietnam exported nearly 170,000 metric tons of the fish in the first four months of 2009, up only about 3,000 metric tons from the same period in 2008, according to the FAO.
The country shipped 11,400 metric tons of pangasius to the United States through April, compared to 10,700 last year. Vietnam delivered 64,300 metric tons to the European Union, its primary market, compared to 63,200 metric tons in 2008.
Vietnam expects to produce 1.3 million to 1.5 million metric tons of pangasius this year.
Look for competition for pangasius to strengthen in the coming months now that Russia and Egypt have lifted import bans on the fish and the bad press surrounding the species in Italy and New Zealand has dissipated.
In the United States, prices of pangasius - also called basa, tra or swai - are holding firm for now. In mid-June, they were still floating around the USD 2-mark (EUR 1.41) for frozen boneless, skinless fillets.
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