Vietnamese farmers and exporters are benefiting from rising pangasius prices in the U.S. market.
“We are taking pretty good profits from surging pangasius prices,” said Nguyen Van Mung, a pangasius farmer in the Mekong Delta province of Dong Thap.
Vietnamese companies exporting pangasius fillets to the United States are buying small fish weighing an average of 750 to 850 grams at very high prices, he said.
“Farming costs this year were reduced significantly as we sold young pangasius,” said Mung, adding that this year’s harvest was one to two months earlier than in previous years.
Mung gained a net profit of more than VND 2 million (USD 100,000) from selling 700 metric tons of pangasius at VND 22,000 (USD 1) per kilogram, the highest gain in the last three years. It usually takes farmers six to seven months to farm pangasius for European and Asian markets, while U.S. consumers preferred small pangasius, which are around four to five months old, so the profit from this market is better, said Mung.
“A pangasius farmer can make a profit of VND 3,000 to 4,000 (USD 0.14 to 0.18) per kilogram from the current price offered by exporters,” said veteran farmer Nguyen Van Thanh in the adjacent province of An Giang.
The value of Vietnam’s seafood exports through October increased 20 percent to USD 532 million. The turnover in the first 11 months of 2010 was the highest ever at USD 4.5 billion, only USD 3 million lower than the target for the entire year. Analysts said the exported pangasius fillet price of USD 4 to 4.20 per kilogram would ensure a booming harvest for local farmers.
However, the Mekong Delta Agriculture and Rural Development Department warned that farmers still must deal with a lot of problems after this year’s quicker-than-usual harvest, including the lack of reinvestment and an increase in the cost of fish feed and medicine.
Farmers said most of them had to borrow money from banks as it took a huge investment of VND 18 to 20 billion (USD 81,820 to 90,910) to breed 1,000 metric tons of pangasius. Borrowers can now expect to pay 16 to 18 percent interest on loans, up from 13 to 14 percent just a few weeks ago. The current lending rate of 16 to 18 percent is the biggest obstacle for local exporters, said Nguyen Van Dao, director of the seafood producer Go Dang. Some exporters said many lenders were not willing to offer loans to them.
Asia Commercial Bank’s Can Tho Province branch, meanwhile, said it still loaned to pangasius exporters. But they refused to provide loans for individual farmers, who they struggled to supervise. The branch said it could consider making loans to farmers who work with co-operatives outsourcing for seafood producers.