TRA VINH (VNS)— Hundreds of households in southern Tra Vinh Province have suffered serious losses after the price of snake-head fish kept falling for a month. Many have abandoned their ponds.
The problem was exacerbated by oversupply and a rash that leaves many fish with ulcerated skin.
So far, more than one million fish have died from the rash and from problems caused by high density farming.
Farmers in the province are reported to have suffered individual losses of between VND80 million and VND500 million ($3,800-23,800).
Nguyen Van Ut, Chairman of the People's Committee in Tra Cu District where fish farms dominate, said that nearly 2,000 households in the district had raised snake-head fish on about 200 hectares of water.
As supplies started flooding to market, the price of fish fell from VND42,000 (US$2) to VND26,000 ($1.23) per kilo. However, production costs were reported to be VND30,000 ($1.4) per kilo.
Ngo Van Nghiem, a farmer in Tra Cu District's Dinh An Commune, said he earned VND100 million ($4,760) in five months of raising snake-head fish last year.
But this year was a big failure. Nghiem said traders only paid between VND27,000-28,000 ($1.28-1.3)d per kilo. In the ponds stocked with the rash-affected fish, the price was even lower.
Phan Van Giang, another farmer in Ngai Xuyen Commune, complained that he quit his sugarcane field to dig a fish pond to raise snake-head fish. He saw villagers getting rich from raising fish last year. Profits were 50 times higher than from farming sugarcane.
But he had created nothing but debt.
Tran Van Dong, deputy director of the district's Sub-department of Agriculture and Rural Development, said the authority had warned farmers of possible diseases and losses after farmers in the districts of Tra Cu, Tieu Can and Cau Ke removed their crops to dig fish ponds last year.
The provincial authority has asked agricultural officers to guide farmers on switching to other crops, such as green shrimps or tilapia.
Good time for clam farmers
Clam farmers in Tra Vinh Province have begun their harvest and hope to earn high profits because of high yields and prices, according to the local Department of Agriculture and Rural Development.
The Cuu Long (Mekong) Delta province has seven clam farming co-operatives and so-called co-operative teams – the former requires a minimum of seven members and the latter, three - that are harvesting 740ha and expect a total output of 4,200 tonnes, it said.
The farms are in Chau Thanh, Cau Ngang, and Duyen Hai districts.
At current prices of VND23,000-28,000 (US$1.09-1.3) for a kilogramme of clam, the farmers stand to make a profit of nearly 50 per cent.
Nguyen Van Sanh, chairman of the Dong Tien Clam Co-operative in Cau Ngang, said his co-operative expects to harvest more than 400 tonnes this season, 40-50 tonnes higher than in 2012-13.
The co-operative has a 40ha farm.
If prices remain stable at around VND25,000, each member will earn a profit of VND10-60 million ($476-2,800), according to the co-operatives.
Tra Vinh has around 1,200ha of coastal alluvial grounds and 800ha are suitable for clam farming.
Since 2005 the province People's Committee has encouraged locals, especially poor families without crop lands, to set up clam farming co-operatives and co-operative teams in these areas.
The co-operatives and teams have attracted more than 21,000 members, 6,000 of them poor, who have managed to rise above the poverty level now.
Last year the province approved a plan to farm clam and blood cockle for export on an area of 1,500ha in Cau Ngang, Duyen Hai, and Chau Thanh districts.
The VND750 million ($35,700) programme provided clam fry and farming techniques to poor farmers. — VNS