Pangasius farmers in western provinces of Vietnam have had to endure record-low prices for more than a year. Despite a recent surge in the price of pangasius, many farmers are still recovering from their losses and struggling to make a profit.
Rising Prices for Pangasius
Pangasius prices have risen over the last two weeks since Chinese consumers started to consume this species. Even though sales to restaurants in the US decreased, consumption in supermarkets increased four-fold. Other markets such as the EU and Southeast Asia started preparing for stockpiles at the end of the year. The prices of pangasius material purchased by companies increased up to 21,000-22,000 dong/kg.
Pangasius Farming Costs
Some farmers who bought fish fries at cheap prices (around 20,000 dong for 30 count pangasius) and had a production cost of 18,000-19,000 dong/kg were able to earn some profit. However, those who bought fish fries at very high prices (50,000-70,000 dong/kg) suffered losses.
Farmers Struggling to Recover
Farmer Nguyễn Ngọc Hải, 65, in Ô Môn district of Cần Thơ city, has more than 20 professional pangasius grow-out ponds. Even though selling prices inched up to 2,000-3,000 dong/kg, most farmers like him were “exhausted”. The lowest level in the last ten years lasted over a year, and even processing companies that have been cooperating with local farmers had to narrow their farming area and emptied their ponds to reduce losses.
Challenges for Pangasius Cooperatives
Nguyễn Tấn Phong, 69, Chairman of the Đại Thắng Cooperative, which has 8ha of farmed pangasius in Ngã Bảy town of Hậu Giang province, harvested two crops per year with a total output of 2,500 tons. But when processing factories refused to buy pangasius, local farmers came to markets to bail out around 500 tons of pangasius for curtailing losses and having money to cover the bank interests. The rest of the fish in ponds were starved, some lost weight to 300-400 gram each.
Pangasius Society’s View
Dương Nghĩa Quốc, Chairman of Vietnam Pangasius Society, said that it was a good sign when prices of pangasius material in western provinces have risen for the last few days, but the losses due to slump in prices through a year-long period has been a shock to local farmers. In his opinion, in 2018, high demand for exports in the face of few stockpiles caused record-high prices of pangasius material, up to 32,000 dong/kg, leaving such a big profit earned by local farmers. In many areas, farmers replaced gardens and rice fields with pangasius farms, even at some point western provinces had 6,200ha and other places had over 5,000ha on average.
Decline in Export Revenue
According to VASEP, pangasius is an item experiencing a slump in export revenue. In September, pangasius exports continued to decrease by 14% with revenue reaching $135 million, making the accumulated export value in the first nine months of the year reach around $1 billion, down 28%. Meanwhile, in the first nine months of 2018, pangasius exports reached $1.6 billion, up 24.6%.