By Sao Mai - The Saigon Times Daily
HCMC – An upsurge in tra fish exports due to undercutting among local traders poses numerous risks to the country’s fish farming, including a probable antidumping action from the U.S. and a spoiled image of the country’s key fishery product, local experts said.
Given huge stockpiles and capital shortage, Vietnamese exporters are selling tra fish, or pangasius, at lower prices.
Tra fish exports in the first quarter totaled more than 161,000 tons worth US$421 million, up 12% year-on-year, according to the Vietnam Association of Seafood Exporters and Producers (VASEP). Despite the increase in value, the unit price of Vietnamese tra fish is falling steadily.
A report by VASEP shows that prices are declining the steepest in the U.S., as Vietnamese processors are hungry for capital while their stocks remained high, which could only be used up after two more months.
It is alarming when tra fish exports to the U.S. are still being investigated for antidumping action, especially at the next rounds of administrative reviews by the U.S. Department of Commerce. Higher taxes may be slapped on Vietnam’s tra fish product if prices continue the downtrend.
As of mid-March, the U.S. remained the biggest importer of Vietnam’s tra fish when the value topped US$60.6 million, up 47.9% year-on-year. The upsurge was even stronger in February when local fish exporters fetched US$26.3 million from exporting tra fish stateside, shooting up 138.4% against the year-ago period.
The rising export value gained from the U.S. signals a stronger consumption demand for this seafood item on this market, but it is also attributed to the competition among local exporters to ship products there.
The number of local tra fish exporters tapping the U.S. market has doubled that one year ago, according to VASEP.
Besides the U.S. market, the EU also remained one of the largest importers of Vietnam’s tra fish with US$88 million in export value for the country as of mid-March, down 12.8% from the preceding year.
In undercutting each other, local fish exporters are also spoiling the image of this kind of fish on overseas markets.
Jean-Charles Diener, director of Ofco Sourcing, a European importer and distributor of Vietnamese tra fish, warned that tra fish grown in Vietnam was gradually losing its image and reputation on the EU market when the price keeps falling over the past time.
“Importers don’t expect lower prices as they must compete harshly with one another to make profits. Thus, importers limit the volume of tra fish products bought from Vietnam by raising campaigns to condemn this seafood item,” Jean-Charles reckoned.