Tra fish farmers in the Mekong Delta are struggling with multiple difficulties as fish prices are plunging to the bottom.
Currently, export-qualified tra fish, weighing 0.8-1 kilo each, sells for VND19,000-19,500 per kilo if payments are made one or two months after purchase. In case of immediate payments, prices are VND18,000-18,500 a kilo.
With such prices, the lowest in about 3-4 years, farmers incur a loss of VND3,500-5,000 from each kilo sold.
Nguyen Van Tach, a tra fish farmer in Chau Phu District, An Giang, said: “Prices are too low now. Moreover, it’s extremely hard to receive payments. Therefore, a lot of farmers have quitted.”
“I’ve sold 117 tons of tra fish at VND20,700 a kilo, but so far haven’t got full payments,” he said.
Giving explanation for declining tra fish prices, experts said many enterprises now could produce their own fish and thus farmers were forced to sell their fish cheaply.
However, farmers stressed enterprises could not provide themselves with enough tra fish for processing and export and still had to buy fish from farmers.
Truong Dinh Hoe, general secretary of the Vietnam Association of Seafood Exporters and Producers (VASEP), said that after the U.S. had increased antidumping duties on Vietnamese tra fish, only nine companies enjoyed a low tariff on tra fish exports to the U.S.
For fear of undersupply, the U.S. importers have accepted to buy tra fish at US$0.5-0.7 per kilo higher. Therefore, enterprises have rushed to export to this market, leading to a year-on-year rise of 50-70% on tra fish exports to the U.S. in April and May.
“Businesses have signed too many contracts. Seeing signs of oversupply, the U.S. importers start to push down prices and reduce imports, affecting prices of raw tra fish in the local market,” Hoe explained.
Tach said: “This year is probably the hardest year for tra fish farmers as raw fish prices are now only VND18,000-18,500 per kilo, and may drop dramatically to VND17,700 a kilo. Solutions have been discussed much, but what matters is whether they will be implemented or not.”
He proposed the State adopt policies to grant tra fish farmers an easier access to loans. In addition, the authorities should take measures to increase the effectiveness of tra fish purchasing contracts, ensuring that enterprises pay farmers on schedule, he said.
Tran Cao Muu, general secretary of Vietnam Fisheries Society, suggested policymakers should map out a proper plan for the local tra fish industry, from farming to purchase, processing and export, to prevent price volatility.
“We should not aim for the first or second rank in tra fish export yet. What matters now is how to achieve consistency and generate the highest profit for Vietnamese tra fish farmers,” he said.
Vietnamese tra fish exports in the first six months are estimated at US$800 million, down 7.3% year-on-year, according to VASEP.