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Basa fish industry in the Mekong Delta hit hard by social distancing

Update: October, 03/2021 - 16:20
Workers process basa fish at a factory in Cửu Long in the Mekong Delta. — Photo courtesy of congthuong.vn

HÀ NỘI — Social distancing in the Mekong Delta has had a great impact on the basa fish industry, said the Directorate of Fisheries. As of mid-September, basa harvesting is estimated at 932,000 tonnes, only 81.1 per cent of the same period last year.

During the first two months of social distancing, July and August, basa harvesting decreased by 20 per cent and 44.9 per cent respectively, compared to the same period last year. Output decreased by 77 per cent in the first half of this month.

There are 106 basa processing factories registered for export in five provinces including An Giang, Đồng Tháp, Cần Thơ, Hậu Giang and Vĩnh Long, employing about 190,000 people.

As of the beginning of this month, 52 of these processing plants across five provinces had to temporarily shut down, while over 70 per cent of employees were out of work.

Due to both the shortage of labour and the splitting of remaining shifts, as per pandemic prevention methods, capacity is currently only 30-40 per cent of what it was at the beginning of July this year.

However, total turnover is estimated at US$1.054 trillion over the past nine months, equaling 106.2 per cent over the same period last year, showing the potential of the market without COVID-19 complications. 

The Việt Nam Association of Seafood Exporters and Producers (VASEP) said that, due to social distancing and strict travel restrictions, the supply chain from fish farming to the factory had been disrupted.

As a result, it is possible that there will be a shortage of basa fish, which in turn could lead to a shortage of raw materials next year.

On top of this, due to the delay in harvesting the fish may become oversized and reduce in quality. Input costs have also increased dramatically, causing farmers prices to increase.

These are big obstacles for enterprises, particularly small and medium enterprises less able to cope with prolonged financial challenges. 

Restoring the basa fish industry

Facing these difficulties, businesses have called for procedures to be simplified unilaterally across provinces, for financial relief to the industry and help to prevent shortages. 

In addition, experts have suggested that a detailed roadmap be provided to navigate the post-pandemic period, with specific regulations and policies for businesses to proactively calculate plans for recovery. 

They also asked the government to consider reducing bank interest rates, debt rescheduling and tax breaks, to allow businesses to resume production. 

Dương Nghĩa Quốc, Chairman of the Việt Nam Pangasius Association, said that in order to sustainably develop the industry in the last months of this year and next year, it was necessary to remove some of the difficulties faced by farmers and exporters caused by COVID-19; in particular, increasing vaccination for workers so that they could return to work soon.

On the other hand, he also emphasised that the quality of the market needed to be maintained in line with environmental goals, as well as developing domestic and international markets through new sales channels. 

Quốc also noted that it was necessary to improve the brand image of Vietnamese basa fish. Focusing on developing existing markets the US, EU, China, and ASEAN, which has a market share of 50-60 per cent, is vital, as is supporting the application of science and technology in seed production, rearing, and feeding. — VNS

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