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Lobsters left unsold because Chinese stop importing   2012-06-18 - SGTT

Lobster hatcheries, the industry that brings the annual revenue of trillions of dong a year--are experiencing days, since Chinese have suddenly stopped importing the luxury item.


On June 14, in Van Ninh district of Khanh Hoa province, the biggest lobster hatchery center in Vietnam, first class merchandise lobsters were trading at 800,000 dong per kilo, the lowest price level in the last many years. In the past, a kilo of lobster, the food for the rich, was sold at 2.8 million dong per kilo.

The prices have been decreasing dramatically because of the plummeted demand. Chinese merchants, the biggest buyers of lobsters, have suddenly stopped purchases.

Breeding lobsters means “gambling”

There are about 9000 lobster cages being bred by 1200 local households in Van Ninh district, which can put out 400 tons of lobsters a year.

According to Dang Tri Thong, an official of the district’s agriculture sub-department, first class lobsters were sold at over 2 million dong per kilo in 2011, or even 2.8 million dong per kilo sometimes. The high prices encouraged farmers to expand the cultivation area, thus leading to the five percent increase in the number of lobster cages. However, the lobster price has unexpected dropped to 1.1-1.5 million dong, which has made farmers suffer, because they have to spent too much money on farming.

Meanwhile, the input material prices all have been increasing sharply. The breeder and feed prices have surged by 15-20 percent. The epidemics have led to the 30-50 percent output loss.

“The total output is 180 tons this crop, which is equal with the last year’s crop. However, the value is just equal to 40 percent because of the too low prices,” Thong said.

Nguyen Van Tam in Van Thanh Commune, who has 2000 lobsters, said that merchants nowadays prove to be very demanding. Though they pay 800,000 dong per kilo only, they would only choose the best lobsters ones.

“I have poured 700 million dong into the shrimp cages, including several millions of dong a day on feed. Now I have to sell lobsters at a loss. I need money to pay for feed and shrimp disease treatment,” he said.

A local farmer said that he still has not started the new crop. Lobster breeders need to be caught from the wild; therefore, they are now very expensive. Meanwhile, he can foresee that the production costs are very high, while he is not sure about the sale prices.

“Breeding lobsters is like gambling. A lot of farmers intend to give up farming after they sell out the lobsters,” he continued.

Ho Ngoc Tuan, another farmer, said that with the current input costs, the merchandise lobster price should be as high as 1.5 million dong per kilo to bring profits to farmers.

Vietnamese lobster hatchery depends on Chinese demand

According to Hoang Kim Khanh, Head of the Khanh Hoa provincial’s Aquaculture Agency, there are about 20,000 lobster cages in the province. The majority of the products have been exported to China across the border gates. Therefore, once Chinese merchants stop purchasing, the prices would plunge dramatically.

Khanh said that farmers still have to sell lobsters at a loss, because they fear they would incur bigger losses due to the epidemics. Farmers have lost 60 billion dong so far this year just because of the epidemics.

Farmers understand that they take risks when relying on the Chinese market. However, to date, no Vietnamese enterprise has come forward and collected lobsters from farmers. Only a small percentage of lobsters have been sold to luxury restaurants in Vietnam.

“Lobsters can bring trillions of dong, but farmers have to take high risks,” said Vo Thien Lang, Chair of the Khanh Hoa provincial Fisheries Association.

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