Soaring tra fish prices entice Mekong farmers

Update: April, 10/2017 - 08:00
A surge in tra prices has sent farmers in the Cửu Long (Mekong) Delta rushing to breed the fish. – VNA/VNS Photo Công Mạo
Viet Nam News

MEKONG DELTA – With prices of tra skyrocketing, farmers in the Cửu Long (Mekong) Delta are scrambling to breed the fish, paying little heed to warnings from experts.

The price of the fish has been rising since before Tết (Lunar New Year) at the end of January and now stands at VNĐ27,000 (US$1.2) per kilogramme, thought to be the highest level in the last few years.

Tuổi Trẻ (Youth) newspaper quoted P., tra breeder in Sóc Trăng Province’s Kế Sách District who farms them in three ponds, said he and his friends are looking for more ponds to breed more fish.

“One of my friends in HCM City, who has no experience in tra farming, wants to lease seven or eight ponds to breed the fish.”

According to Phạm Thành Nhi, head of the Hồng Ngự District Agriculture and Rural Development Bureau in Đồng Tháp Province, because the prices of snakehead fish are falling, many local farmers have switched from it to tra.

With so many farmers switching to tra, not surprisingly there is a shortage of juveniles for breeding.

Their price has risen by VNĐ20,000 per kilogramme from a year ago to VNĐ40,000-50,000.

Another cause for the short supply is that several breeders of tra juveniles switched to other fishes after suffering losses a couple of years ago, Võ Hùng Dũng, vice president of the Việt Nam Association of Seafood Producers and Exporters (VASEP), told the media at a seminar on Vietnamese seafood in Cần Thơ city last month.

The prices of adult tra are also rising because of the increasing purchase by China, he said.

China accounted for 18 per cent of Việt Nam’s tra exports last year, 15 per cent higher than five years earlier.

Nguyễn Minh Nhị, a former chairman of the An Giang Province People’s Committee, said the volatility in tra fish prices is nothing new to fish farmers, but told them to be cautious since no one can be sure where the prices are heading.

Some analysts said though increasing imports by China are driving prices up, there is no guarantee this trend would continue, and farmers could suffer big losses if the imports stop.

The An Giang Department of Agriculture and Development has encouraged farmers to team up with processing companies to ensure their fish is sold.

According to VASEP, in the first quarter of this year farmers in the delta bred 739ha of tra and harvested 672ha, which yielded 210,000 tonnes.

They have been making handsome profits thanks to the high prices.

But authorities have been warning farmers against uncontrolled expansion because historically tra fish prices have been volatile. –VNS