U.S. importers unsure about pangasius supply
It cracked the Top 10 per-capita seafood consumption list a few years ago, marking its rise in popularity, but pangasius is still working on becoming a marquee fish due to its lack of solid name recognition and continuing fallout from its bad press over the fight with domestic catfish.
Just back from visiting pangasius farms in Vietnam, Chris December, president of QVD Aquaculture in Bellevue, Wash., says one of the biggest current issues is the shrinking credit market for seafood suppliers in Vietnam.
“It makes it difficult to keep a business growing when credit is shrinking,” he says. Banks in Vietnam are re-evaluating their portfolios. If credit is limited or cutoff, he says, the immediate impact is that pangasius farmers can’t buy feed for their fish. Farmers either go out of business, he says, or have to find partners who can provide the capital that banks aren’t willing to loan.
While December anticipates some impact on supply, he says it’s difficult to pin down the numbers because farmers are reticent to divulge just how many fish are in the ponds. “We rely on feed sales to predict what will come out of the water,” he says.
Supply is fluctuating, but December doesn’t see any prolonged shortages. In 2008, Vietnam produced more than 1.1 million tons of pangasius, but those numbers were expected to fall to about 800,000 tons in 2011.