Vietnam’s pangasius industry nears crisis

Published on
February 24, 2017

Rough weather and a credit pinch have hurt production cycles of farmed pangasius in Vietnam, resulting in sky-high prices, to the point where some processors have even stopped giving quotes to retailers.

The estimated farm production for pangasius in Vietnam in 2017 is 500,000 metric tons (tonnes) live weight. With a fillet yield of 30 percent, this will only cover 40 percent of last year’s market demand.

The shortfall is due to a calamitous series of events, commencing at the beginning of the year, when rainy, cold weather killed off many juveniles across the country’s pangasius farms. Recently, a tightening of credit has also hurt aquaculturists in Vietnam. Independent farmers are having trouble retaining the support of the country’s banks, which will not give loans to buy feed and cover the cost of juveniles that have to be purchased at the start of the growing season. For a larger farm, these costs could run to USD 1 million (EUR 953,000) to be paid in advance; there is no credit available from the feed producers either.

As a result, pangasius prices have shot upwards. Top-grade, 100 percent net weight pangasius with five percent glaze and no chemical treatment is now sold at about USD 3.70 (EUR 3.50) per kilo CnF. A year ago, the same specification could be sourced for about USD 2.90 (EUR 2.70) per kilo.

However, pangasius farmers may not benefit from the higher prices. According to media reports, Vietnam’s pangasius exporters do not know how to service the contracts they agreed to last year. Processors who had factories running continuously last year can now only produce one day in the week because of the lack of raw material. They are also worried that workers in the Mekong Delta will look for other jobs – meaning even if the supply situation improves, there may be a shortage of workers to process the fish.

Some supermarket buyers have stated that if the price for the fish cannot be kept at the same level as last year, they simply will not sell it anymore – a possibly massive setback for the pangasius industry in Vietnam.

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