All About Pangasius(Part 4)
Using pellet feeds can somehow prevent diseases in Pangasius since food is controlled, however, prevention is still the best cure through sustainable culturing, good management and efficient water supply.
Harvesting, processing and filleting
In Vietnam, Pangasius grows in three different farming situations: in wooden River Houses with Cages placed right in the stream, in fenced part of the shores of rivers where the fish is placed, and in earthen ponds.
Nowadays, the ventilation of the ponds by paddlewheels makes the fish in these environments as good as fish coming from floating cages in rivers. The fish is fed with industrialize pellets mad from rice bran, some soybean meal and this feed is floating on to of the water surface so the fish does not pick up off-flavor situations. The fish is brought to the factories in well-boats alive when harvested. Then it is incised, bled and filleted right away. Afterwards, the fillets are frozen, which allows the utmost quality in the fish as it is cut from a live catch and deep frozen in a short time.
After six months, the fish is harvested by dragging in the nets and transporting the catch alive in well-boats to the factories. There are two main harvesting times(mostly in Vietnam) which are at the beginning of the rain-season in March and at the end of October. But fish can be also harvested all year round, during the main season there is a peak in harvesting.
The main colors of the fillets are white, pink and yellow. There are also classifications of light pink or light yellow, depending on the practice in the different factories. It is fairly vital for the buyer to clear this color-classification before ordering Pangaisus container-loads for there are big differences in the factories’ color preferences.
These are even so called fish fillets with a pink center and a yellow surrounding in the same meat. The Pangasius comes in different colors from snow-white to light pink, pink and yellow. The white fish is the heights quality but light pink is requested the same in the markets. These different colors have been independently processed in the past and often mixed with the qualities and colors found in their containers.
The yellow comes either form lack of oxygen in the water of from not changing it often, while the pink comes from lack of bleeding the fish. Fish fillets are then trimmed and IQF or plate frozen. Then they are packed in polybags or block frozen and packed in cartons and shipped into the markets.
The trend of mixing these colors is not suitable for the European market and can be only sold in Asian or Easter Markets like Russia. So it is continuously crucial to clear before what can be used in the market and what must be disregarded.
Worldwide export and import opportunities
Pangasius production has grown a great deal, reaching a supreme record high. The Euro Fish Info Network published a market report last year, concluding that in the previous nine years(1997-2005), production in Europe increased remarkably from 22,000 tones to 376,000 tones. During the same period, the export of Pangasius fillets grew consequently from 7,000 tones to 141,000 tones. In 2006, the total production of Pangasius by Vietnam alone reached 800,000 tones, with exports of fillets exceeding 265,000 tones. In the first 10 months of 2006, already 226,000 tones were exported worth US$ 596 million.
It is motivating to realize that Easter Europe and Russia are the most important outlest for Pangasius fillets. Russia is now the main outlet for Vietnamese catfish, taking 33,800 tones in the first ten months of 2006, more than double the corresponding 2005 result. Poland emerged as main passage inside the European Union(EU), overtaking Spain. In the first then moths of 2006, 21,600 tones were imported.
The US market for this product is relatively undersized and not growing as much as the European market. This is some what due to the change in trade name, imposed by US catfish producers some years ago, and the presence of economical frozen tilapia from China is keeping this market well supplied with cheap whitefish fillets. The Asian market is not really focal and contrary to the general trend, not growing. It can be noted that Japan is not a major market for Pangasius, and that China, Thailand and Singapore are declining. In Malaysia, Pangasius is sold as barramundi, and the market is still diminishing.
Astoundingly, the unit value of Pangasius fillets went up even with the enormous rise in availability. Troubles in wild groundfish stocks led to change in demand, keeping the overall demand for Pangasius quite strong. The standard unit value was US$ 2.55/kg in 2006, which compares to US$2.33/kg in 2005. The lowest unit value is experienced in Russia, where it is below US$2.00/kg. This verifies that below standard Pangasius products are sold on the Russian market. In the EU, the unit value is moderately high at US$ 2.80/kg, up from US$ 2.50 last year. The import price of Pangasius fillets is quoted at US $6.30/kg on the Spanish market with escalating price trend.
If the Vietnamese can do it, so can we
It was during the first four months of 2006 that progress in farmed Pangasius production in Vietnam along with buoyant international whitefish demand took a significant increase in export volumes. Compared to January-April 2005, Vietnamese volume exports of Pangasius jumped by over 150% to 83,000 tones while the value of exports raised by 140% to $200 million, according to Vietnamese trade figures. 2005 in total amounted to 141,000 tones in export worth $328 million.
The increases during the past year mark acceleration in the upward trend in Vietnamese exports which has been obvious over the past five years. They are also a confirmation of the mounting role of Pangasius products in international whitefish markets, which is reflected in increasing penetration among European retail chains.
In line with an expanding production area devoted to Pangasius farming, Vietnamese output has increased strongly over the past ten years. From 40,000 tones in 1997, farmed volumes passed the 200,000 tone mark in 2004. For 2005, volumes are estimated to have increased by a further 47% to 376,000 tones.
Among EU markets, Vietnamese trade figures point to large increases in sales to Poland, Spain and the Netherlands this year. At 10,000 tones, Poland was the largest customer within the EU during the first four months of 2006 with Vietnamese exports to this market jumping from less than 1,000 tones during the January-April 2005 period. Sales to Spain doubled over the period to 7,000 tonnes while volumes to the Netherlands were up from less than 300 tones to over 5,000 tones.
The increase in exports to European markets contrasts with declines in Vietnamese volume sales of Pangasius to China (-22%) and Australia (-7%). These declines were, however more than balanced by the European increases as well as by increased exports to other Asian markets excluding China. Once considered one of the main markets for Pangasius, the US decline this year confirms the steady downward trend.
Freshwater fish species are expected to be cheaper substitutes for white fish which are preferred by many EU customers but which are increasingly expensive due to reduced landings and quota polices. Low price is the main competitive advantage of Pangasius compared with other fish.
According to Eurostat, Germany imported 4,403 tonnes of frozen fillets of freshwater fish during the first eight months of 2005, an increase of 67% compared to the same period of 2004. Vietnam has now overtaken Russia to become the biggest supplier of frozen freshwater fillets to Germany with a share of 37% this year. The strong performance of Vietnam appears to have been helped by a low price level. The unit price for Vietnamese products, at 2.16/kg, was much lower than the overall average unit price 3.55/kg and lower than the average unit prices for other key suppliers such as the Netherlands(4.90/kg) and Russia(4.40/kg).
In Italy, Vietnam has also achieved a good growth rate this year, with Italian imports of frozen freshwater fillets from Vietnam up 122% for the first eight months of 2005. The 45% Vietnamese share of Italian imports in this category this year compares with 32% during the same period last year. The average unit price of Vietnamese product (2.20 / kg) is somewhat lower than the overall category average of 2.50 kg, a differential which may help explain the Vietnamese volume increase.
In Spain, the average import unit price for Vietnamese frozen fillets, at 2.37/kg, is also lower than the overall average of 2.58/kg/ The average unit price for Vietnamese product is down 7% this year while unit prices for competing products have been increasing. The Vietnamese share of Spanish volume imports remains strong at almost 70%, an increase on the 65% share during the first nine months of 2004.
In line with the positive import trends in other EU markets, Belgian imports of frozen freshwater fish fillets increase by 36% during the first nine months of 2005 compared to the same period of 2004. With imports from Vietnam up by 65%, the Vietnamese share of Belgian imports increased from 20% of 2004 to 24% of 2005, confirming its number one supplier position.
The viewpoint for additional increase potential for Pangasius products appears optimistic. Consumer curiosity in balanced protein diets should mean continued buoyancy in whitefish market. With comparatively immobile or declining supplies of tradition whitefish species, market awareness in price competitive aquaculture products such as Pangasius should carry on to expand. On the production side, adaptation to a larger scale market situation will remain a key challenge for the industry over the medium term. And ultimately, the future looks bright for Pangasius and those who want to culture it.
to be continued…
By Hans Audric Estialbo
Photo by : nariba.com