Vietnam exports boosted with Pangasius fish

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Vietnam exports boosted with Pangasius fish

Vietnam has become one of the world's major exporters of aquaculture products, in particular the Pangasius fish, known as the "fish for the future" due to its good quality and low price.
Following the global economic slowdown, many countries are focusing more on the quality of products, including fish for consumption. Food products now face stricter safety checks in many markets, including the European Union, the United States and Russia.
Consumers are shifting from consuming white cod, a saltwater fish that is relatively expensive, to Pangasius, a freshwater, white-meat member of the catfish family.
Pangasius' meat has a firm texture with a relatively light odor and taste, is easy to cook and suitable for frying and grilling, industry officials say.
Vietnam is the world's largest supplier of this kind of fish, with a total value worth US$1 billion (Bt32.23 billion) per annum, thanks to the plentiful feeding grounds in the Mekong River Delta area.
Pham Truong Yen, director of Can Tho Aqua Breeding Centre under Vietnam's Agriculture Department, said the Vietnamese government supported farmers raising Pangasius out of harvest season. The government has set up its own hatcheries to build up supplies of fish eggs and reduce its imports from China.
While farmers face high costs of production and a small margin - as they have to import the fish at the post-larvae, or baby, stage - Pangasius is quite resistant to diseases, survives in low-oxygen environments and lives in very dense populations.
Yen said that feed meal represented about 70-75 per cent of the total production costs.
The selling price of the fish is about 15,000 to 16,000 dong (Bt25 to Bt27) per kilogram.
To ensure high quality, Vietnam has also set up an agency to develop fisheries in provinces around the Mekong Delta.
So far, production is centered in 13 provinces around the Mekong Delta, especially An Giang and Can Tho.
Le Ngoc Dien, vice chief of the Fisheries Agency in Can Tho, which focuses on research, said the government aimed to develop large-scale production of Pangasius that adheres to international food-safety and environmental-protection standards.
Every farm is checked to ensure it meets such standards, uses no chemicals and has a wastewater-management system. The government is developing traceability systems to ensure export growth in the future, she said.
Nguyen Ngoc Trai, vice general director of Hiep Thanh Seafood, said Pangasius exports have a bright future, particularly in emerging economies like Russia.
To promote growth, Trai said, the firm is planning to form a joint venture with the Philippines-based Alliance Tuna International in October.
Hiep Thanh, one of Vietnam's biggest exporters of Pangasius, is an integrated business focusing on three main areas: rice; fish farming and seafood; and feed meal.
Its Pangasius exports are worth approximately $50 million a year, accounting for 5 per cent of the value of Vietnamese exports of the fish.
The firm produces meal from rice bran, which keeps its production costs low.
Trai said the company was also building a new processing factory with a capacity of 70 tons a day to produce processed fillets. It is considering developing a factory to produce cooked and ready-to-eat products in the future to increase export value.