Vietnamese catfish quality not good : says specialist
If 40-50% of Vietnamese firms continue to produce catfish fillet of such bad quality like now, their seafood will soon not only be banned into many countries but boycotted by local consumers, warned an specialist at a conference on measures to enhance catfish's quality in HCM City on January 21.
PhD Nguyen Huu Dung, vice president of the Association of Seafood Exporters and Producers, said the qualify of Vietnamese catfish fillet was found worst in terms of contents of water and protein according to a research conducted by a German university a year ago.
This research revealed Vietnamese catfish fillet samples contained 82.3% of water, which is too high, and 13.8% of protein, too low compared to other countries.
Chairing the conference, deputy minister of the Agriculture and Rural Development Luong Le Phuong asked the National Fisheries Quality Assurance and Veterinary directorate (Nafiqaved) to tighten its control over processing establishments and mete out strict punishments to catfish exporters who engaged in frauds.
Such acts would spoil the prestige of Vietnam's catfish -one of the country's export staples, Phuong added.
Ngo Phuoc Hau, chair of the Association of Seafood Exporters and Producers (Vasep), reported Tra catfish stands first in export volume and second in turnover after shrimp.
In 2007, Vietnam earned US$1 billion from exporting a record 400,000 tonnes of catfish fillet, an increase of 34.4% over 2006.
The sector expects to process 1.2 million tonnes of catfish for export to earn US$1.2 million in 2008.
When the US Department of Commerce raised the anti-dumping tax on catfish imported from Vietnam from 36% to 64% in 2003, it was thought that the Vietnamese catfish exports would "die" as the US at the time consumed 90% of Vietnamese catfish export.
However, this had in silver lining in that it encouraged Vietnamese exporters to seek new markets.
After four-years, major markets for Vietnam's tra and basa catfish have changed, with the US representing only 6.9% of total turnover while the European Union tops the list, accounting for 48%, followed by Russia with 9.2%, Asean countries 7.9%, China 4%, and Australia 3.9%.
Sai Gon Giai Phong - January 24, 2007.