Global demand for pangasius catfish continues to grow in trade

In Asian countries, namely Bangladesh, Myanmar, Thailand, India, Indonesia and Malaysia, pangasius culture is slowly increasing, catering mainly to the growing domestic markets. Some exports are also taking place from these sources to regional and western markets. International standards are being imposed in some developed and developing countries to protect consumers from mislabeling and trade fraud such as over-glazing.

Viet Nam Despite the forecast for lower raw material supply for Vietnamese pangasius, exports increased during the first quarter to the major and non-traditional markets. For example, Indian official sources indicated imports of 534 tonnes of fillet from Viet Nam during the first six months of the Indian fiscal year.

The industry is currently boosting efforts to promote its exports through a fund programme proposed by the Ministry of Agriculture and Rural Development. Pangasius exporters will contribute between USD 0.1 and 0.2 per kilogram of fish to the fund. This fund will be used for promotion activities in the US and the EU as well as strategies to protect Vietnamese exporters against allegations related to quality or pricing.

In a recent development, the Viet Nam Association of Seafood Exporters and Producers (VASEP) announced that a minimum export price of USD 3.30/kg for trimmed tra fillet and USD 2.30/kg for untrimmed tra fillet will be imposed from the beginning of July this year. According the association, the move is designed to ensure profits for farmers and prevent exporters from undercutting each other. The US is exempt from this minimum export price as it is currently imposing anti-dumping taxes.

EU Consumer preference for ‘white meat’ fillet is traditionally strong and dominated by coldwater fish such as Alaska pollock, cod, and hake fillets. Now being accepted as the ‘tropical white fish’ in many EU markets, imports of pangasius fillet continue to take a larger market share. During the first quarter of 2011, total imports of pangasius fillet were unchanged from last year.

The main markets in the EU imported more pangasius at the expense of cold water varieties with Spain importing 16% more in 2011 than in 2010, the Netherlands 9% more and Poland up 23%. Germany, however, imported less. Sustainable supplies, good quality and cheaper price compared with cold water fish are the factors contributing to consumer acceptance for such products.

USA In the first quarter of this year, the USA imported 20% more catfish than a year ago, which included pangasius (94%) and the Ictalurus channel catfish (6%). Imports from Viet Nam, which accounted for 90% of total pangasius imports, were higher by 40% than a year ago while channel catfish imports fell by 60%.
Higher prices offered by the domestic fresh fish markets in Cambodia, Malaysia and Thailand resulted in lower supplies from these sources. During this first quarter, there was little import from Indonesia.

Meanwhile, the Food Safety and Inspection Service (FSIS) of the US Department of Agriculture (USDA) is beginning to hold public meetings to hear comments on the proposed regulation to implement a programme for mandatory inspection of catfish and catfish products. Under the proposed regulations, catfish and catfish products imported into the United States would have to come from countries that FSIS has determined to operate systems of inspection equivalent to that of FSIS and from establishments certified by the foreign inspection system as complying with FSIS requirements. Upon arrival at the United States point of entry, the catfish and catfish products would be subject to re-inspection before entry into this country. Once implemented, this new regulation would most likely result in delays, hence a slow down in imports could be foreseen in the future.

Despite the up and down nature of the advance of pangasius in international trade, the popularity of this species is not in doubt. With the advent of improved regulation and a stronger emphasis on environmental standards, future export growth must be ensured.

Source: Globefish

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