Tra fish shortage grinds production to a halt

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The shortage of tra fish is expected to last until the end of this year and beyond, forcing almost all tra fish export processing factories to temporarily halt production, according to an official from the Vietnam Association of Seafood Exporters and Producers (VASEP).

Duong Ngoc Minh, VASEP deputy chairman said on Sunday that tra fish was becoming more and more acute because the price of tra fish had increased to VND23,000 (US$1.09043) per kilo, but enterprises could only buy tra fish of a high enough standard for export processing.

Tra fish of between 0.8-1kg per unit is already sold out in the local market. Currently, 30 of the 70 existing tra fish processing factories relied on specific tra fish rearing regions to supply 30 percent of their factories’ demand, Minh said.

The factories were expected to use their existing stocks within 10-15 days would then be forced to halt production, he added.

According to a VASEP survey, total output of tra fish to the end of 2013 was estimated at 50,000 tonnes, including 30,000 tonnes farmed by enterprises and 20,000 tonnes reared by farmers. Meanwhile, the factories require 300,000 tonnes to meet demand.

With the tra fish export season about to start, customers needed huge volumes but local tra fish stocks had been exhausted, Minh said.

The impending situation was first flagged at the start of this year, Minh said, adding that many enterprises lacked the investment needed to rear tra fish because the high production costs of VND21,000 (US$0.995610) per kilo meant they bought tra fish for export from farmers at the lower price of VND18,000-19,000 (US$0.853380-0.900790) per kilo.

As a result, farmers were required to increase production and were exposed to greater losses, while enterprises had been unable to form contingencies for the inevitable shortage, Minh added.

Minh said the situation would continue into next year because the volume of tra fish varieties currently being produced was just half of last year’s output.

The 2013-2014 crop would produce 500,000-600,000 tonnes of tra fish to meet just half of local demand, Minh concluded.

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