Fish farmers swim the Internet for profit
by Hoang Hoang
When they started raising shrimp on their farm in Ly Nhon Village of HCM City's Can Gio District, Vo Van Trac and his wife, Tran Mai Phuong, set up a website, hoping to boost sales.
The resulting website (www.vietlinh.com.vn) also provides information on raising shrimp, dealing with their ailments and selling the crustaceans for a high price, said Trac.
"We also help other farmers set up their own web presence so they can ex-change information, particularly on overcoming a particular challenge such as the falling price of shrimp," he said, adding that the website accounts for a significant percentage of his orders.
As a result of their expanding internet presence, Trac and his fellow farmers earn VND100-200 million a year from raising shrimp for domestic use and for export.
Since setting up his own website, Tran Van Chau, who lives in the same city as Trac, has received many more orders for the pet fish he sells.
Chau is reported to be the first farmer in the city who learned how to set up a website to popularise his products abroad.
He said in the past he wanted to export fish to the US market and a number of European countries, but didn't know to do it until 2010, when he met a technician from a city centre.
"By offering interesting photos with descriptions in both Vietnamese and English, my website helped me advertise my fish abroad. I now have many overseas customers," said Chau, adding that thanks to the web, his pet fish sales increased 40 per cent from last year.
Chau said he plans to buy a domain and key words in Google so his website can reach more customers.
However, he remains afraid of direct contact with foreign customers because his English is still not so good.
Although foreign countries offer a huge potential market for pet fish, the language barrier continues to present a problem – not only for Chau but for many other farmers in Viet Nam, he said.
In addition, farmers are confused about how to set up international sale contracts with foreign customers, Chau said.
Tran Thi Cuong in the city's Binh Chanh District typically sells 10,000 different young trees for farmers in the surrounding districts of Cu Chi, Hoc Mon, and Binh Chanh as well as others in Dong Nai and Long An provinces.
She earns VND150-250 million a year. Since she set up her own website, she said, more and more people know her and her goods.
"Now my customer base has increased. Many farm owners sign contracts with me to buy my products for the long term," she said.
Dang Quang Minh, director of the Centre for IT Training in HCM City, said websites can help farmers get up-to-date information such as how to grow a particular species of tree or how to breed live stock.
"To help young rural people and farmers use the internet effectively, we should have information portals and hand books for them like in Indonesia, where authorities offer farmers training couses to help them increase their farming output and living standards," Minh said.
Pham Thiet Hoa, director of the Centre for Agriculture Consulting and Assistance, said the centre was assigned by the city Department for Agriculture and Rural Development to develop websites for farmers and a number of co-operatives in the pet fish, bonsai and mushroom business.
With an expenditure of VND350 million from the city budget, the project has helped established 43 websites for farmers since it started in 2010.
"We hope to set up more than 120 websites by the end of next year to help farmers increase sales - and their incomes," Hoa said. — VNS