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VASEP to set minimum prices for Pangasius (tra catfish)

The start of 2011 will see the establishment of minimum export and procurement prices for tra catfish (pangasius) to help farmers and processors prevent losses, said Duong Ngoc Minh, deputy chairman of the Viet Nam Association of Seafood Exporters and Producers (VASEP).

He added that the US market would be excluded from the deal.

Exports of tra may not fulfill this year’s target of USD 1.5 billion due to falling prices and orders. VASEP anticipates the value of exports to reach some USD 1.37 billion instead, VNS reports.

In the first nine months of 2010, 472,586 tonnes of tra worth USD 1 billion were exported. The remaining USD 500,000 cannot be exported in the remaining three months of the year, the association told.

Normally, Minh said, the quantity of tra fish exported between July-October is higher than during the previous portion of the year. But the trend changed this year because lower export orders year-on-year plus export prices falling to record lows, even to the US market. 

Additionally, the US imposed higher anti-dumping tariff on Vietnamese tra, and many other markets also put up obstacles to limit imports. The US Department of Commerce’s (DOC) may charge prohibitive tariffs of 100-120 per cent – which surpasses all previous rates – to five Vietnamese firms even though the fish sells for a lot less than the tax in the US market.  

Countries including Thailand, Malaysia, the Philippines and Indonesia developed tra farming with government funding, which has enlarged the market supply of the fish.

For markets other than the US, a minimum export price of USD 2.8 per kg will be set starting early next year, while farmers selling the fish will earn a minimum price of VND 20,000 (USD 1) a kg.

“The regulation on floor prices aims to bring the price of tra fish to its true value and ensure profits for both breeders and processors,” Minh said. 

Currently, the purchase price of tra is VND 18,500 (USD 0.9) per kg with the average being USD 2.7 per kg.

VASEP has asked the Ministry of Agriculture and Rural Development (MARD) to add tra to the list of products subjetct to conditional exports, which would require processors to meet specific criteria to be able to export tra, such as having an export contract for at least six months and having their product quality registered and inspected. 

Production of tra has been weak in Vietnam because about 30 per cent of farmers have quit this year after incurring severe losses from dipping prices. 

Seafood processors have thus said they may encounter a continued shortage of raw materials in 2011. They estimate the tra fish output at 1 million tonnes despite their total processing capacity of over 2 million tonnes.

Source: VASEP

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