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More favorable conditions created for tra fish exports

Tra fish prices in the Mekong Delta region have been on the rise since late September, as local traders have stepped up purchasing and processing tra fish for export to the United States and China following the lowering of trade barriers imposed on Vietnamese tra fish in these key markets, the local media reported.

The United States may surpass China to become the largest buyer of Vietnamese tra fish due to recent outstanding performance. In the file photo, a farmer feeds tra fish
The United States may surpass China to become the largest buyer of Vietnamese tra fish due to recent outstanding performance. In the file photo, a farmer feeds tra fish

Many traders have visited tra fish farming facilities in the Mekong Delta localities of Can Tho, An Giang, Dong Thap and Tien Giang to purchase tra fish with prices fluctuating from VND36,000 to VND38,000 per kilogram.

With these prices, the farmers can earn VND6,000-VND9,000 per kilogram of tra fish in profit and can repay the bank loans they have taken out over the past two years because of plummeting tra fish prices.

Tra fish marked for export, with considerably enhanced quality, has been approved to enter selective markets such as the United States and the European Union, which has helped raise export prices. Prices are expected to continue to rise until the end of the year.

Apart from this, Le Chi Binh, standing member of the Vietnam Pangasius Association and vice chairman of An Giang Fisheries Association, attributed the tra fish price hike to the shortage of tra fish supplies for export.

Meanwhile, the growing demand for tra fish from the country’s largest buyer, China, has caused demand to outpace supply. Accordingly, local enterprises have had to purchase tra fish from local farmers to supplement the fish output from their own farms to meet demand.

However, households farming tra fish are advised to be cautious of price volatility as the world market currently prefers mid-sized tra fish that weighs some 700 grams each, instead of the more common size of 1.5 to 2.0 kilos on the market now. The Chinese market is consuming a large volume of one-kilogram Vietnamese tra fish, but if this market stops importing larger fish, local exporters will face obstacles in consumption and processing for export.

Statistics from the Vietnam Association of Seafood Exporters and Producers (VASEP) show that during the year up to September, the country’s tra fish export turnover hit US$1.6 billion, up 24% year-on-year, and the figure is expected to rise during the final months of 2018.

The U.S. Department of Commerce has announced the preliminary results of the POR14 on antidumping duties on tra fish products for the period from August 1, 2016, to July 31, 2017, at US$2.39 per kilogram, which was much lower than the previous review of US$3.87 per kilogram.

In addition, the Food Safety and Inspection Service, under the U.S. Department of Agriculture, last month published proposed rules in the Federal Register, the United States’ official journal of the federal government, noting that Vietnam’s food safety control system on tra fish is equivalent to that of the United States. Despite this unofficial announcement, the proposal has drawn positive signs for Vietnamese tra fish.

U.S. likely to become largest buyer of Vietnamese tra fish

China has remained the key importer of Vietnamese tra fish, but data issued by VASEP reveals that the United States will likely win the top spot.

Between January and July this year, exports of local tra fish to China reached US$289.9 million, up 40.6% year-on-year. Meanwhile, the United States secured second place, at US$255.3 million, up 15.6% versus the year-ago period, followed by the European Union at nearly US$140 million.

However, the gap in the value of tra fish imports between the top two buyers has reduced considerably.

Truong Dinh Hoe, general secretary of VASEP, told The Saigon Times that during the year up to August 31, tra fish export to China generated US$332 million, while that to the United States was US$321 million.

Therefore, the United States might move up to become the largest buyer of Vietnamese tra fish in the near future if its surging demand is maintained.

By end-August, Vietnam’s seafood export turnover totaled US$5.5 billion. Of this, the European Union ranked first, at US$981 million, and the United States came second, at US$975 million, followed by Japan, China and South Korea, with US$859 million, US$776 million and US$536 million, respectively.

Exports of shrimp posted nearly US$2.3 billion in revenue, while tra fish exports earned US$1.4 billion, and the remainder was attributed to other types of seafood.