At my supermarket in Australia, the price of basa fillets has fallen from A$12 per kilo to A$9. This is inexpensive.
If we use a conservative exchange rate of VND20,000 to A$1, then Australians are paying VND180,000 per kilogramme. Of course there is the cost of processing, transport and distribution to get it to my table.
Australian fish costs more than A$20 per kilo, and we are happy to pay A$20. People here do not understand why basa is so cheap.
There is a perception here that basa is grown in dirty water, so it is of lower quality. This might be why it is cheap.
Maybe a marketing exercise is necessary?
We conveyed your thoughts to the secretary of the Viet Nam Association of Seafood Exporters and Producers (VASEP) Truong Dinh Hoe.
Regarding the cheaper price of basa catfish at some places, Hoe said it was the result of low wages for workers — and many local exporters compromised their profits to win more markets by reducing their prices as much as possible.
However, he confirms that the basa catfish is raised in the ponds that meet SQF1000 standards and other international standards.
SQF1000 system is a risk management system operated by producers to guarantee food safety and food quality.
Hoe added that basa catfish raisers had established a closed production chain to ensure quality from ponds to the dining table.
The cheapness may be explained by the feeding requirements. To get one kilo of salmon, garupa or any kind of carnivorous fish, raisers have to feed them a total of four to eight kilos of small fish. For tuna, it is about 30kg.
However, Hoe said catfish were omnivorous feeders and ate little animal protein. They are generally fed agricultural by-products, such as oil-cake or soybean residues. This helps keep prices low.
According to Hoe, basa catfish is a source of safe, highly nutritious and cheap food for people around the globe. With productivity of 1.5 million tonnes per year, catfish have eased the pressure on natural stocks of fish.
Viet Nam currently provides more than 95 per cent of the world's catfish.
The association secretary said unfortunately the cheap price was often criticised by competitors as indicating poor quality.
Catfish is a typical species from the Mekong Delta region. They are strong and can live with low supplies of oxygen.
In the first six months of this year, Viet Nam exported 287,000 tonnes worth US$862million. Australia spends $21 million on supplies.