Vice Chairman of the Vietnam Association of Seafood Exporters and Producers (VASEP) Duong Ngoc Minh said that processors continue to face a shortage of raw materials even while offered higher prices for their product. Importers are thus reluctantly seeking alternatives. Now pangasius (tra catfish) importers from the European Union (EU) and the US are offering to pay up to 20 per cent more than they were in the summer but there is a shortage of material for processing. “Last month, domestic export dealers pressed farmers to reduce the previously agreed price, despite increasing feed costs, so many decided to stop farming to avoid operating at a loss,” Duong explained. “Now the dealers have accepted even the higher price, farmers do not have the stocks to supply them with the fish in time for Christmas.” The outlook for the fourth quarter is that pangasius (tra catfish) output will meet just half of the demand, even though the problem began only last month, he noted, Business Forum reports. “We must use inventory fish to find new export orders. Enterprises that signed contracts to supply fish at a low price are likely to suffer heavy losses because the current input price is high,” Duong explained. Based on the productivity of 2011, there will definitely be a shortage in 2012 too, he said — and it will even continue into 2013 if the situation is not tackled promptly. Deputy Chairman of the An Giang Provincial Seafood Association (AFA) Le Chi Binh agreed. “Farmers now have no more tra fish to sell. They have given up farming. Seafood processing companies will face a serious material shortage in the time to come,” Le warned, VietNamNet Bridge reports. Fish production is contingent on both financial investment and the quality of breeding. In 2010, the number of breeding fish was cut in half, which led to the shortage. “State agencies and institutes of aquaculture are in charge of supplying quality fish fry to farmers, but farmers should also have their own hatcheries. If farmers and enterprises work together, it would go a long way to ensuring the stable consumption of the product,” Duong pointed out. For their part, enterprises must be proactive to ensure they have enough stock for their own production. They should base production plans on financial policies, but currently a lack of policies is complicating this, he said. For example, An Giang Province wanted to produce 200,000 tonnes of pangasius per year, but this becomes unrealistic without investment. Therefore, production plans must run in line with financial solutions, Duong added. But farmers seem to have lost interest out of fear of incurring further losses — and those farmers who are interested are finding it hard to acquire loans, as banks now do not want to lend them money because they believe tra farming is too risky and that farmers will be unable to pay bank debts.