Catfish industry faces new rivals
VietNamNet Bridge - Vietnam’s catfish farmers have been warned of difficulties ahead as the country is no longer the only big catfish exporter.


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Catfish industry

Vietnam’s catfish industry has experienced many ups and downs over the last 20 years of development.

The industry has made big leaps since the early 2000s when large-scale farming areas began arising in the provinces of An Giang, Dong Thap, Can Tho and Vinh Long, according to a report from VASEP (Vietnam Association of Seafood Exporters and Producers).

In 1997, the dawn of the catfish industry, Vietnam exported $1.65 million worth of catfish products. But the figure soared to $1.4 billion in 2009, while output reached 1 million tons. 

In the peak development period, Vietnam entered many large export markets, including the US. However, this also brought problems.

Fearing that catfish imports from Vietnam could be a threat to the domestic catfish industry, Catfish Farmers of America (CFA) filed a lawsuit with the US DOC and ITC, accusing Vietnam of dumping catfish products in the US market, which caused losses to the domestic catfish industry.

Despite the barriers in the US, Vietnam maintained stable exports thanks to the new markets, including the EU. The catfish exports brought over $1.4 billion in 2010 and hovered around $1.6-1.7 billion a year in the 2010-2015 period thanks to increased output.

Nevertheless, catfish prices  decreased in 2010, from VND29,000 per kilogram to VND21,000-23,000, causing big losses to farmers.

2018 was the most successful year of the catfish industry in terms of both export value and profit for farmers. The price of exports to the US reached $5-7 per kilogram, the highest ever price level.

The prices recovered later, reaching a record high of VND36,000 in 2017-2018 which brought huge profits of VND6,000-10,000 per kilogram. The catfish industry regained its strength with 5,400 hectares of farming area in 2018 and $2.26 billion in export turnover.

Future

According to the chair of Nam Viet Group, 2018 was the most successful year of the catfish industry in terms of both export value and profit for farmers. The price of exports to the US reached $5-7 per kilogram, the highest ever price level.

Toi and Vo Hung Dung, secretary general of VINAPA, both said the crisis is over and Vietnam’s catfish industry would regain its strength.

However, Vietnam has been warned that it is no longer the only big catfish exporter in the world, as India, China, Indonesia and Bangladesh have emerged as potential rivals. 

The three countries have total output of 1.2 million tons, which is nearly equal to Vietnam’s annual output.

Dung believes that Vietnam should increase output to lower the prices, not lower the output to raise prices.

“If we cannot do this, countries with similar conditions will find the driving force to farm catfish,” he said.


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Kim Chi

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