Viet Uc to open new high-tech shrimp farm in April, preps to sell pangasius fingerlings

Viet Uc Seafood Corp., a leading shrimp breeding company in Vietnam, expects to start production at its new high-tech shrimp farm in April, the company’s controlling director, Vu Duc Tri, told SeafoodSource in an interview in Ho Chi Minh City on 21 February.

The company, which is the only producer of shrimp broodstock in the country, will begin operations at the new facility focused on shrimp breeding operations, and then expand to commercial farming later, Tri said. The new facility will cover 168 hectares in the Dam Ha district of Quang Ninh coastal province in the northern region of Vietnam. Its capacity is eight billion postlarvae per year, which will be sold to farms in Quang Ninh and other provinces in northern Vietnam. Tri did not say when the company expected to reach maximum postlarvae capacity at the new facility.

Tri said the project in Quang Ninh will help the company, which also operates eight other hatchery facilities across the country’s southern and central regions, establish its presence in all major shrimp-farming regions of Vietnam. 

The company announced on 11 November, 2017, that it successfully produced broodstock shrimp after years of research efforts, and it remains the only Vietnamese company that produces shrimp broodstock, with Vietnam’s other shrimp-farming firms importing broodstock from the United States, Singapore, and Thailand. Viet Uc sold more than 16 billion postlarvae last year, accounting for nearly 27 percent of the total supply of around 60 billion postlarvae in Vietnam, according to Tri.

“We have no opponent in shrimp breeding production. We have visited Ecuador and India and knew that these two big shrimp-producing countries also have to import broodstock from foreign countries,” Tri said. “We are at a very good position to lead this industry. That is why we think big, not small, and therefore we have to make massive investments.”

The company also runs some farming operations, with most of its product remaining in the domestic market, though it has designs on eventually exporting fresh whole shrimp to Australia. In October last year, the company’s farm in the Mekong Delta province of Bac Lieu became the first shrimp farm in Vietnam to fulfill criterion set by the World Organization for Animal Health (OIE). Tri said the company wants to act as a “role model” to local farms, serving to educate them on high-tech farming practices.

“Viet Uc created its own definition of a ‘perfect shrimp’ – that is, the shrimp must be completely clean, meaning it is free from antibiotics or any toxic substances [and] must be traceable, meaning people can know which farm the shrimp comes from, how long it has been raised, which food it has eaten, which breeding production farm it comes from or even where its broodstock come from. This is the trend in the world because now people want to eat clean food,” Tri said. 

Tri said its high standards for quality will allow Vietnam to separate its shrimp products in a very competitive marketplace.

“India is having good shrimp output, but if they continue to fail to address the biological safety and wastewater treatment issues, they could not develop in a sustainable way. They may have problems in a few years, as Thailand had in the past, when Thai production fell due to diseases caused by wastewater treatment issues,” Tri said. “Many exporters said if Viet Uc can ensure stable supply in long term, they are willing to pay Viet Uc 15 to 20 percent higher than the highest prices in the market now.”

In addition to its new shrimp facility, Viet Uc is also branching into pangasius, with plans to provide the market with first fingerlings beginning July this year from its high-tech pangasius farm in southern Vietnam, Tri said.

“We will produce first batches of fries in April and expect to sell first fingerlings in July as it takes about 91 days for the fries to grow to become fingerlings,” he said.

Viet Uc began selecting first-parent pangasius for the project in 2016 and opened the 100-hectare farm in December 2018. The farm has a capacity of one billion pangasius fingerlings per year and was constructed with a solar panel array to provide it a cheaper, more renewable energy source.

Tri did not say when the capacity will reach one billion fingerlings, and ensuring the company’s standards for high quality breed production “will take time.” He said the company will have very limited supply in 2019.

Several pangasius companies have approached Viet Uc with purchase inquiries for its fingerlings, including Vinh Hoan, Vietnam’s top processor and exporter of pangasius. The entire Vietnamese pangasius industry’s demand was estimated to be around three billion fingerlings in 2018.

The project is part of the country’s three-tier cooperation plan for production of high-quality pangasius breeds in the Mekong Delta, home to most of Vietnam’s pangasius farming. The plan, scheduled to run through 2025, was approved by the Ministry of Agriculture and Rural Development in March last year. The scheme is expected to produce about half of the Mekong Delta’s estimated demand of between 2.2 billion to 2.5 billion high-quality fingerlings a year by 2020, which will be raised to between 2.5 billion to three billion high-quality fingerlings a year – 100 percent of the delta’s expected demand – by 2050.  

Viet Uc is the only company in Vietnam using high-tech programs to monitor fish and producing analyses with the software, allowing it to select breeds with selected genetic material. 

Viet Uc had sales of VND 1.4 trillion (USD 60 million; EUR 53 million) and net profit of VND 500 billion (USD 22 million; EUR 19 million) in 2018, according to Tri.


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