RP to grab big share of global catfish market

December 4, 2008 9:44 am by pna.
By Aurelio A. Pena

DAVAO CITY, Dec. 4 °™ The Philippines is set to grab a big share of the global export market for "Pangasius" catfish dominated currently by Vietnam, China, Taiwan and the United States.

Eduardo Lazo, business development manager of Vitarich Corporation, said huge opportunities await hundreds of Filipino fishpond owners, new investors and fishing firms all over the country who are planning to go into full-scale commercial production of "Pangasius" catfish now in big demand in Europe, US and Russia.

"Pangasius" catfish is a fresh water fish originating from Vietnam, the world's biggest producer and exporter, which cultivates and grows the fish in large commercial fishponds and distributes them to both domestic and export markets.

Vitarich, one of the Philippines' biggest feed millers, pioneered the commercial growing of this fresh water fish specie in the country and set up an integrated system from breeding all the way to marketing together with its business partners.

"We're opening up this big opportunity for the contract growing of Pangasius catfish all over the country. We'll supply you the fingerlings, the feeds, technical support and even the regular buyers," Lazo told hundreds of potential investors during the recent Mindanao Investment Conference in the southern city of Davao.

Contract growing for this kind of Vietnam catfish, he said, must have a big land area with lots of fresh water available, preferably near rivers, creeks, dams, swamps and other bodies of water.

Lazo said Philippine-grown "Pangasius" catfish and its end-product fillet steaks might turn out to be of much better quality because its Vietnam counterpart is coping with a bad track record and poor image in the US market.

"Some Vietnam producers were also accused for false declaration of labels and weights. This deteriorating image of Vietnam as a quality source of Pangasius catfish will turn the tide in our favor once we're ready to enter the export market," he said.

Although commercial fishponds in the Philippines have begun production a few years ago led by Vitarich, all its output went to the country's domestic market.

Most supermarkets here had been importing Pangasius catfish fillets from Vietnam for their domestic customers that include high-end hotels and restaurants, according to Lazo.

Vietnam's production of Pangasius catfish was recorded at 382,000 metric tons valued at 987 million US dollars or nearly a billion last year. The world's largest producer had been exporting the catfish to Russia, Poland, Spain, US, Netherlands, China, Germany, Singapore, Belgium and Australia, according to the website www.infofish.org.

The Infofish website also cited European Union as Vietnam's largest importer, representing 49 percent of the entire country's exports, equivalent to 400 million US dollars with a yearly growth of 40 percent.

Department of Trade and Industry (DTI) Undersecretary Merly Cruz said the Philippines have all the advantages of getting a good share of the global market for Pangasius catfish.

"We have the best locations for this type of new industry. Our country is most suitable for catfish growing and farming. And on top of all these, we also have a big domestic demand for Pangasius catfish, not mentioning its huge potentials for the export market ®Clet's start developing this new industry," Cruz said. (PNA)

LDV/AAP/lvp

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