With many catfish exporters repeatedly dumping the market by offering to sell at dirt cheap prices, other local catfish processors and exporters have demanded that strict requirements should be set to ensure that only capable and honest businesses can join the export market and help reverse the slumping prices.
At a meeting Monday, catfish businesses reached a consensus that only exporters that have processing plants and are granted with a code to sell to the EU market should be eligible to ship catfish, a proposal they said will be petitioned to the Ministry of Agriculture and Rural Development.
Vietnamese catfish have been on the world market for more than 10 years, but prices have also constantly fallen over the last decade.
Prices seemingly bottomed out last week, when some exporters attending the Vietfish 2012 exhibition offered to sell at only $2.2 a kilogram, a rate other firms said is “incredibly low,” as prior to the fair they had shipped the fish to the EU at $2.8 a kilogram.
“The throwaway prices have ‘killed’ the reputation of Vietnamese catfish on the global market,” said Nguyen Phat Quang, chair of Acomfish.
Exporters attending the meeting also urged that a minimum, or floor price, should be levied on catfish exports to every particular market.
Commenting on the proposal, Truong Dinh Hoe, general secretary of the Vietnamese Association of Seafood Exporters and Processors (VASEP), said a floor price will be slapped on catfish shipments to the US.
“There are currently few exporters to this market, and their product quality is quite consistent,” he explained.
Hoe said the minimum export price for the US market will become applicable in early August, while the floor for other markets will take effect a month later.
“As of August 1, catfish export contracts to the US will need to be approved by VASEP for supervision on prices and quality,” he added.
The floor price for the US market has been agreed upon at $3.4 a kilogram, according to Duong Ngoc Minh, CEO of Hung Vuong JSC.
“However, we will conduct market research in the US and set an official price on July 15, which will be applied for shipments in August,” he added.
As for other markets, the exporters have agreed that the minimum price should be $2.6 a kilogram for white-flesh catfish filets.
The minimum price, however, is only the first step on the long road to regaining real value for Vietnamese catfish, delegates said at the meeting.
Vo Dong Duc, CEO of Caseamex catfish exporter, proposed that new requirements should be set to eliminate unqualified exporters from the market.
“They do not meet enough conditions for exporting, but have been dumping the market nonetheless,” he said.
“The market has become a mess due to certain brokerage firms who do not have processing plants but are willing to sell at dirt cheap prices.”
Duong Viet Thang, deputy director of South Vina Co, agreed, and reiterated the case of the Brazilian market.
“[Brazil] is an appealing market, but some brokers have totally destroyed it by offering poor quality products at throwaway prices, thus helping to turn customers away from Vietnamese catfish,” he said.
“Some brokerage firms are willing to swindle customers to export several containers of catfish, and shut down their operation, something a real exporter will never do,” he added.
Hoe of VASEP said if the proposal to apply the new requirement on catfish exporters is approved, the number of catfish exporters will be reduced from the current 200 to 65 (those who have processing plants).
“As these 65 firms account for 80 percent of the catfish export turnover, there will be no impact on domestic catfish consumption,” added Hoe.