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Catfish prices soar but farmers short of stock   2009-04-27 - VietNamNet//VNS

Catfish prices in the Mekong Delta have surged 20 per cent overnight, leaving farmers and traders short of fish.

The price stands at VND17,000 (US$1) a kilo and is expected to top VND19,000 shortly, compared to the longstanding VND14,000 ($0.8) price just several days ago.

However, most catfish breeders in the region cannot take advantage of the high prices because they have few fish left in their cages, after suffering great losses last year.

"The entire region has only 10 per cent left from last year’s output," said Pham Van Danh, chairman of the Fisheries Association of An Giang Province, which has the largest catfish farming area in the country.

Ngo Minh Dat, a farmer in the province’s Phu Tan District, regretted that he had sold at time of low prices four out of his five cages containing 200 tonnes of fish each, incurring a huge bank debt on his part.

"The price goes up when the fish runs out and then we can’t benefit," Dat said.

Cao Phuoc Hai, another breeder in the district, bemoaned his loss of half a billion dong incurred four months ago when the price was at its lowest, saying that his remaining stock would not be enough to pay his debts, despite a price rise.

Le Chi Binh, vice chairman of the association, said the surge in prices was not large enough to offset input expenses in catfish farming, which amounts to VND18,000 a kilo.

"In fact, the price of rice has barely generated a profit," said Binh, "and it will not spur a revival in the region’s catfish farming."

Meanwhile, farmers’ sales are falling short of processors’ needs because they are holding their products for the next price rise.

"Demand is going up in markets like Russia, Eastern Europe and the Middle East," Danh said, explaining the forces driving the catfish price rise.

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