HA NOI — The country loses around 400,000 tonnes of seafood per year, worth VND8 trillion (US$380 million), due to bad preservation methods, according to the Ministry of Agriculture and Rural Development's Directorate of Fisheries.
|Fish being handled at Long Hai port in Long Dien District in the southern province of Ba Ria-Vung Tau. With traditional preservation techniques often used by seamen, seafood remains in good condition for no more than 10 days, causing huge losses. — VNA/VNS Huy Hung
The quantity makes up 20 per cent of the total seafood volume caught in the country every year.
Larger ships tend to have more efficient storage facilities than smaller ones, which still use ice or salt to preserve seafood, according to the directorate.
In the past 10 years, the number of fishing vessels operating in the country has increased considerably, but most of them are small.
At present the country has nearly 130,000 fishing ships, 65,000 of which have the capacity of under 20CV (19.7 hp). Only 4,500 have the capacity of over 90CV (88.7 h.p) making up 18.8 per cent of the total number, according to directorate statistics.
The ships often lack the capacity to classify and store seafood properly, and some vessels in central provinces even store their catch in canvas.
Using such traditional preservation techniques, seafood remained in good condition for no more than 10 days whereas it can take seamen 20 days to sell everything, said Nguyen Ngoc Oai, director of the Department of Exploitation and Protection of Fisheries Resources under the directorate.
Storage facilities are also often left uncleaned, leading to a build up of bacteria.
Nguyen Duy An, director of the Kien Giang Trading Co's Food Canning Plant, said the outdated preservation technologies affected the quality of the catch.
Fishermen paid little attention to preservation because they can sell their catch easily, even if deteriorated, he added.
Tran Van Than, owner of a 50-CV (49.3 hp) fishing ship in the southern province of Kien Giang, said he often preserved his seafood with ice, which kept it fresh for 15 days, whereas it took him 30 days to sell all of his catch.
About 10 per cent of his seafood ended up stale after each fishing trip, leaving him with a loss of up to VND7 million ($330).
"I do not have enough money to set up a standard storage facility or buy proper equipment to preserve my seafood," he said.
Setting up proper facilities entails millions of dong, which means Than would have to mortgage his house and other property if he wanted to borrow money from banks. However, he has already mortgaged his house to have enough money to build his ship.
Thus far, the directorate did not provide any other plan for giving financial support to seamen, he said.
Cao Minh, head of the Ben Tre Fishery Resource Inspection and Protection Division, said no fishermen in Mekong Delta provinces had ever managed to get soft loans under the Government's assistance policies.
Relevant agencies should help remove the bottlenecks that prevent fishermen from getting the loans while teaching them how to buy equipment and build standard preservation facilities, he said.
The chairman of the Viet Nam Fisheries Association, Nguyen Viet Thang, said to reduce post-harvest losses, the most urgent requirement was to invest in advanced preservation technologies.
He urged seafood processors to help fishermen design standard preservation facilities for their vessels, and called on research institutes and fisheries to pay a greater role in fisheries production.
For instance, Khanh Hoa Province has created a system that allows fishermen to sell their catch right at sea instead of returning to shore to do so.
Hai Vuong 68, a ship, has been deployed to buy ocean tuna and other seafood. It will make its first trip, buying from six fishing fleets operating near the Spratly and Paracels archipelagos.
The ship has a quick freezing system that chills fish to -60 degrees Celsius, and can bring ashore 640 tonnes at a time. It will not only buy the fishermen's catch but also supply them with fuel, water, and food to enable them to remain longer at sea.
Fishing boats from Khanh Hoa are all installed with GPS systems by which the Hai Vuong 68 will locate them.
After buying seafood, it will partly process it before freezing and taking it ashore.
Dao Cong Thien, director of Khanh Hoa Province's Department of Agriculture and Rural Development, said 500 fishing boats have signed up for the new system.
He expected it to be expanded to all fishing communities in the province as well as elsewhere.
The Ministry of Agriculture and Rural Development has set a target of cutting losses to less than 10 per cent by 2020.
To achieve this, Deputy Minister of Agriculture and Rural Development Vu Van Tam said, provinces should implement this year the decisions signed by PM Nguyen Tan Dung to support farmers and fishermen.
The Directorate of Fisheries has instructed authorities to look at ways of partnering smaller vessels with larger ships as well as with seafood processing organisations.
Fish processing enterprises with good preservation stores are encouraged to join hands with seamen to keep fresh.
The department has considered running training courses on setting up standard fish preservation stores for seamen, said Oai. — VNS