Vietnam pangasius prices rising as fingerling issues persist

Sep 18 2018

The market price for Vietnamese pangasius on the European market may be relatively stable for now, but sources note rising ex-farm prices and a lack of quality fingerlings for stocking mean the short and long-term future is unclear.

Early in September prices are around $2.80 per kilogram freight-on-board for standard, treated fillets delivered to the EU, one Vietnam packer told Undercurrent News. This equates to around $3.20 CIF (cost, insurance and freight).

Premium, chemical-free product, 100% white meat, is in high demand and going at high prices, he added; $4.20-$4.55/kg.

A second source, also based in Vietnam, put prices to Europe at $2.25-$2.50 for individually quick-frozen fillets.

“Prices are on the rise again, big time. Farm-gate prices were at VND 24,000/kg, it's back at VND 31,000/kg now, two weeks later,” he said, on Sept. 7.

“The market price is less clear though; it looks a bit cheaper than the past couple of months,” he added.

Undercurrent's prices portal shows that through spring 2018 prices surged, from a level already at a five-year high.

Markets are seeing stable demand, both sources said; “China's still strong, Europe is still where it is, and the US is dominated by a few players,” said the first source.

The second source agreed, warning a dependence on the Chinese market was, in his view, risky. “If China gets picky about something, or decides it wants to pay less, then they just stop buying and prices will dive.”

“25% of the pangasius from Vietnam is going to China now, and that's only the official numbers, and does not account for border trade.”

Meanwhile Don Kelley -- vice president of US importer Western Edge Seafood – told Undercurrent pangasius costs from Vietnam had been stable for two months or so.

“USA price has also been stable, but with some 'give' on the 7-9 size. Vietnam shipped more of this size in August than the other sizes. 3-5 and 5-7 are still slow to leave Vietnam.”

Every week his firm continues to get inquiries from importers and continues to make inquiries, and it has made some spot purchases itself, he said. “Companies seem to be trying to balance sizes within their programs. Still, no one is getting everything they want when they want it from Vietnam.”

Prices for pangasius into the US were put at $3.10-$3.20 per pound by various other sources.

Fingerling fears

Undercurrent's first source, an executive with a Vietnamese packer, warned that an expected improvement in fingerling availability for grow out hasn't actually come to pass.

“There's still probably not enough in the market, I would say. The weather's been bad for fry, and there's been a lot of fingerling mortality too when they're still under 20 grams.”

The lack of availability is affecting prices now, he confirmed. “A lot of people without strong relationships, or ownership in hatcheries, are having trouble getting fingerlings, then the ones they do get are C quality, rather than B or A. So a good number die.”

Not only is there a lack of availability on grown fish now, but the ongoing lack of fingerings is going to impact supply in six months' time, he said – echoing comments made by the CEO of Vietnam's largest pangasius exporter, Vinh Hoan, at August's Vietfish expo.

“We [the Vietnamese industry] have horrendous mortalities,” continued the source. “All the fish that go in at 20g, 40% are dead before harvest. So at 0-20g stages, that's the problem. We could sell more if we had more.”

The second unnamed source also agreed that the current unit price of fingerlings would “surely have an impact on the price of the final product”, though the “bigger headache” for processors is knowing whether the fingerling supply is sufficient for them to ensure commercial-sized fish six months later.

Vinh Hoan's CEO, Vi Tam, and the first source mentioned above both said the current state of Vietnam's fingerling production needs investment and work as a priority.

All sources agreed that solutions are on the horizon, and at Vietfish Undercurrent spoke with R&D and consultancy firm Fresh Studio, which is working with Danish recirculating aquaculture system supplier Alpha Aqua to help bring the technology to Vietnam for precisely this reason.

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Source: 2018/09/13/vietnam-pangasius-prices- rising-as-fingerling-issues-persist/