|Workers process shrimps at Minh Hai Joint Stock Seafoods Processing Company in Bac Lieu Province. — VNA/VNSPhoto Vu Sinh
HCM CITY (VNS) — People making dried fish and shrimp in the Cuu Long (Mekong) Delta are as usual unable to meet the massive demand that arises for Tet.
In Tra Vinh Province, dried shrimp producers in Cau Ngang District's Vinh Kim Commune have stopped accepting new orders for Tet because of the scarcity of shrimp.
Vinh Kim dried shrimp is made from tep bac dat, a finger-sized shrimp that lives in rivers and rice fields and has a natural pink colour, delicious meat and a unique favour.
Tran Thi Kham, who has produced dried shrimp for more than 30 years in Vinh Kim, said there is a lot of natural tep bac dat when a strong north-easterly wind blows.
But in the absence of the wind, the creatures do not appear in large quantities, she said.
Since supply is scarce this year, she estimated she would make 200 kilogrammes of dried shrimp for Tet, she said.
"The output is too small compared to the demand."
Vinh Kim now has only a few households making dried shrimp, with their combined daily output being 30-40kg.
The price of their product is VND800,000 to VND1 million (US$36-45) a kilogramme.
The prices of many Tet specialities in Tra Vinh, including dried dua catfish, have not risen since last Tet, according to the province Department of Industry and Trade.
The delta, the country's largest fish and shrimp farming area, has an abundance of fish varieties for making dried fish including broadhead catfish, spot pangasius, and snakehead fish.
Many households along the Tien and Hau, two tributaries of the Mekong River, are now busy making dried fish for Tet.
They each have their own family recipes, and so the products are delicious.
Ngo Van Luc, who makes dried snakehead fish in Dong Thap Province's Tam Nong District, said though the price of fresh fish has increased by VND5,000 a kilogramme since last year, the final product remains at VND100,000-120,000 ($4.5–5.4) a kilogramme.
This is because local producers have agreed not to increase the price of dried fish, he said.
Luc said he sells his dried snakehead fish to traders in HCM City.
Dong Thap and An Giang are major habitats of snakehead fish in the delta. Most of the dried fish here are produced traditionally by drying under the sun.
Besides snakehead fish, people in Tam Nong District have also begun to make dried fish from loach, catfish, and snakeskin gourami in recent years.
Dried snakeskin gourami, which is produced between December and May, is in great demand during Tet.
In Ca Mau Province, more than 330 households together produce 10-15 tonnes of dried snakeskin gourami each year.
A kilogramme costs VND400,000 ($18) in the market.
Tran Gia Lam, who has been making dried snakeskin gourami in Ca Mau's Tran Van Thoi District for three years, said his family earns a profit of VND200 million ($9,000) every year during Tet.
Producers can make big profits, but they often face a shortage of fresh snakeskin gourami, he said.
The freshwater fish is found mostly in Ca Mau's U Minh Ha forest, he said. — VNS