Falling Tra Prices Hurt Vietnamese Farmers


Linda Salim, for SeafoodSource from Surabaya, Indonesia

Published on
May 14, 2008

The price of Vietnamese tra catfish has been declining over the past couple of months, with estimated total loss of over $18,500. Earlier this month, one kilogram of tra sold for an average of 89.7 cents. It has since bottomed out at 85.4 cents, before settling at 86.6 cents this week.

Nguyen Thien Phap, a tra farmer from Phu Tan in An Giang province, said he sold 100 tons of tra to local processor Cadonimex for 86 cents a kilo, losing $9,282. He had to sell, risking an even larger loss if he waited.

In addition to the price drops, tra farmers in An Giang have also been dealing with higher operating costs, due to an increase in fish feed prices earlier this year. Overall, feed prices have increased more than 40 percent, says Bui Huu Tri, chairman of Can Tho Seafood Association.

The average tra production cost has gone up to 99 cents per kilogram, leaving farmers with an income deficit of 12.4 cents per kilogram on the current market price.

Considering the risk, An Giang Agribank, which has been the main provider for aquaculture loans, has recently stopped approving loans to capital-strapped farmers. The few farmers who still managed to get approval are charged 1.8 percent interest a month. Most other farmers have to settle with black-market loan sharks, who charge 5 percent interest a month.

Most small-scale farmers can't survive without a loan, since they have to wait months to get paid. Tran Van Tuong, a farmer from Chau Pu district, complains that he still hadn't been paid in full for a transaction he did in February, for which he agreed on a 15-day payment term. Last month, he sold another 347 metric tons, worth more than $300,000, to Thanh Hai Co., with 20-day payment terms. He has received less than $31,000 so far.

Most tra farmers in Cuu Long River Delta consider quitting tra farming, and 20 percent of An Giang's farmers have already exited the industry.

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