Minister urges move toward sustainable seafood sector

Tuesday, Jul 14, 2015 08:00

A farmer harvests shrimp in the Mekong Delta province of Bac Lieu. Localities are advised to step up their efforts to ensure sustainable aquaculture, Minister Phat said. — VNA/VNS Photo Duy Khuong
BAC LIEU (Biz Hub) — Agriculture Minister Cao Duc Phat said yesterday that localities nationwide need to step up efforts to ensure sustainable aquaculture, especially of key products like shrimp and tra fish.

Addressing a conference held in the Cuu Long (Mekong) Delta province of Bac Lieu to review two years of implementing seafood industry reforms, he called for existing shrimp ponds and productivity to be maintained while taking full advantage of shrimp-mangroves and shrimp-rice farming models.

Doing this will increase the industry's competitiveness and help expand its global market share, he said.

He said the breeding of white-legged shrimp should be done during favourable weather conditions and productivity improved in intensive farming and advanced intensive farming models by upgrading irrigation systems, applying advanced farming techniques and using high-quality shrimp breeds.

Measures to prevent diseases must be popularised among shrimp farmers and the application of hi-tech breeding models like shrimp-farming in greenhouses and multi-stage shrimp grow-out systems strongly encouraged.

Meanwhile, farmers must follow regulations on breeding commercial tra fish and build production and distribution value chains, the minister said.

He said the agricultural sector will co-operate with localities in building fisheries centres, creating an impetus for production of fisheries equipment and provision of logistics services.

The conference heard that in 2014, aquatic productivity reached 3.6 million tonnes, 5.9 percent more than the previous year, for a value of VND188.6 trillion (US$8.8 billion). In the first two quarters of this year, 1.8 million tonnes of seafood was produced from nearly 1.3 million hectares.

The southern coastal swathe is home to 540,000 hectares of intensive farming and advanced intensive farming, accounting for 88 per cent of seafood cultivation areas.

Last year, the seafood industry earned $1.7 billion from exporting 750,000 tonnes of tra fish, out of a total production of 1.1 million tonnes.

The country has 100 tra fish breeding farms, mostly in Dong Thap, An Giang, Can Tho and Tien Giang provinces.

There are 1,200 shrimp farms in the Mekong Delta region producing 45-50 billion juvenile shrimps every year.

Increasing incomes

The restructuring of agriculture in the Cuu Long (Mekong) Delta over the past two years has helped farmers increase their incomes though there are hurdles to carrying out the restructuring, experts have said.

Speaking at a seminar held in Dong Thap Province on Saturday to review implementation of the restructure, Minister Phat said the delta's production models have undergone significant renovation.

The mechanisation rate has increased significantly, helping increase yields and quality and reduce post-harvest losses, he said.

Around 96 per cent of rice fields are ploughed by machines and 76 per cent are harvested by machines.

Also under the restructuring, more than 78,000ha of poor rice fields in the delta have been converted into cash crops like vegetables, corn, sesame, and soy bean.

These crops have fetched 20-30 per cent higher profits than rice, according to the Ministry of Agriculture and Rural Development.

The delta has also earmarked large areas for rice, fruit and fish farming based on Vietnamese and Global Good Agriculture Practices (Vietnamese and Global GAP).

Truong Canh Tuyen, deputy chairman of the Hau Giang Province People's Committee, said, "After restructuring agriculture, the province has chosen to develop 10 key products."

Hau Giang farmers have been growing other high-value crops for the past two years on 3,000ha of sugarcane farms and low-yield orchards and rice farms, he said.

The province has also strengthened support for farmers seeking to improve production methods and use advanced farming techniques, he said.

But participants also spoke about the difficulties faced in restructuring, including small and scattered production.

The regulations that limit land ownership and the delta's poor agriculture infrastructure are other obstacles.

For instance, irrigation for shrimp breeding cannot meet demand, causing water pollution and leading to shrimp diseases.

Though the large-scale rice field model is encouraged, it has developed very slowly and accounts for a mere 3.3 per cent of the delta's total rice cultivation area.

The development of cultivation models complying with Vietnamese and Global GAP has faced difficulties because of high costs.

Price volatility has been a constant factor for years.

Deputy Minister of Agriculture and Rural Development Tran Thanh Nam said, "Many provinces in the delta have made plans to restructure agriculture but lack market information and have weak intra-regional links."

To restructure agriculture is efficient, the delta should speed up the switch to large-scale production, employ advanced technologies, and secure outlets for produce, he said. — VNS

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