Vietnam plans to control tra fish industry to stop undercutting by exporters

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Seafood exporters and the agriculture ministry agreed at a meeting Wednesday that there should be better oversight of the tra (pangasius) fish processing industry to prevent dumping.

Tra fish production is out of control, causing exporters to undercut each other and mar the country's reputation, companies said at the meeting held by the Ministry of Agriculture and Rural Development to discuss a decree on the production and trading of the fish, Tuoi Tre newspaper reported.

Duong Ngoc Minh, vice chairman of the Vietnam Association of Seafood Exporters and Processors (VASEP), said 90 out of the 160 existing exporters are selling cheap -- at less than US$2 a kilogram -- and 90 percent of them do not own fish farms or processing plants but buy fish from farmers on credit.

No investments mean no worry about making losses or paying bank interest, he said.

Traders should be asked to prove ownership of processing plants to be licensed for export, he said.

In the year-to-date tra fish output was up 5.3 percent at 771,000 tons, and exports were worth US$985 million.

The companies said unhealthy price competition has been persisting for a long time and could have caused the US to hike anti-dumping duties on the country's leading exporters earlier this year.

The new duties, announced on March 14, are up by dozens of times to $0.77-3.87 per kilogram after the US Department of Commerce replaced Bangladesh with Indonesia as the third country to calculate costs for Vietnamese freshwater fish.

US became the second largest importer of tra from Vietnam last year after the EU with shipments of nearly $359 million.

Nguyen Huu Dung, another VASEP vice chairman, said breeding quotas need to be set for each province in the Mekong Delta, the country's main supplier of the fish.

Deputy Minister of Agriculture and Rural Development Vu Van Tam admitted that the biggest problem with tra fish are the uncontrolled export prices.

The ministry would collect opinions and draft a decree on breeding, processing, and exporting tra fish before October, he promised.

He said the decree would require the use of technology to reduce costs and raise the value of the products.

The sector needs to keep its traditional markets and find new ones, he added.

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