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The Mekong Delta is becoming home to many fisheries firms which are driving the industry forward to enhance its world-class reputation.

Blessed with ideal conditions for fisheries development, the Mekong Delta is becoming home to many fisheries firms which are driving the industry forward to enhance its world-class reputation.

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Embraced by a 750 kilometres of coastline home to 22 estuaries and over 800,000 hectares of tidal flats, and imbued with ecological diversity, the Mekong Delta is absolutely convenient for fisheries development.

According to the Ministry of Agriculture and Rural Development (MARD), the delta is home to more than 1.2 million ha ideal for fisheries development, occupying nearly 60 per cent of the whole country’s fisheries production area. Of which, the Ca Mau peninsula has 630,00ha, while the areas along the Tien and Hau rivers stretch over 123,000ha.

There are another over 500,000ha for fresh-water aquatic production in the provinces of Long An, Tien Giang, Ben Tre, Dong Thap, Vinh Long, Tra Vinh, Soc Trang, An Giang and Can Tho city. With such a particularly rich ecological system, the delta is ideal for aquatic production in various conditions such as fresh water, sea water and brackish water.

Thus, fisheries development has been focused in the Mekong Delta provinces’ economic development. According to the General Statistics Office, in 2008, the whole delta’s gross domestic product (GDP) value sat at over VND269 trillion ($14.1 billion), of which 33.59 per cent came from the local agro-forestry and aquatic sectors. The fisheries sector alone accounted for 16 per cent of the delta’s GDP in 2008.

On average, the aquatic sector has so far witnessed the highest growth rate, at an average 19.97 per cent per year, which is 1.9 times higher than that of the whole delta.

According to the MARD, the delta’s aquatic production area increased from 445,300ha, which churned out 365,141 tonnes of products, in 2000 to 823,000ha with an output of over 1.9 million tonnes of products, in late 2009. Such fast increases reflect that the fishery has greatly fed the delta’s farmers.

The rapid development of the fisheries in the Mekong Delta has led to the development of breeding suppliers, construction of new animal feed factories and export-oriented aquatic processing facilities.

The delta is now home to more than 190 aquatic processing factories with combined output of over 1.2 million tonnes per year, focusing mainly in Can Tho city and the provinces of Soc Trang, Bac Lieu, Ca Mau, An Giang and Kien Giang. At present, the delta’s total processed aquatic output is about one million tonnes per year, accounting for nearly 70 per cent of the whole country’s.

Over the past few years, the regional fisheries sector has made impressive contributions to the delta’s gross export earnings. Between 2003-2008, the delta’s aquatic export turnover augmented from $1.2 billion to $2.83 billion, which represented an average 18.5 per cent increase per annum.

In 2009, in spite of the global economic downturn, the Mekong Delta’s aquatic export turnover stood at more than $2.55 billion, while that of the whole country was $4.25 billion. At present, Vietnam’s aquatic products are exported to 165 countries and territories around the world.

Nevertheless, the Mekong Delta’s aquatic sector has experienced unstable growth due to lack of medium- and- long term planning strategies and forecasts for outputs and markets. Meanwhile, most local farmers do their farming spontaneously without paying due attention to the market demand.

Surveys show that almost half of the local farmers are raising tra fish in small-scale farms and accordingly finding it hard to borrow bank loans and apply advanced scientific and technological achievements in their production. Meanwhile, Vietnam’s foreign importers are applying stringent barriers to ensure food hygiene and safety, which need to be controlled in all production stages from farms to factories.

To address this challenge, some enterprises in the Mekong Delta are taking efforts to apply the Good Agricultural Practice (GAP) standards, in which food hygiene and safety is strictly controlled, in order to improve their product quality and meet stringent requirements from big markets such as the US, EU and Japan.

Particularly, Binh An Seafood Joint Stock Company (Bianfishco) in Can Tho city’s Tra Noc Industrial Park was selected by the Ministry of Science and Technology to implement a project in regard with the country-of-origin labelling model through the application of radio wave-based identification technology.

The project is the first of its type in Vietnam to use the world’s most modern technology, which can help exporters, importers and consumers be provided with exact information data about how the fish is raised, caught, processed and exported, as well as about the product’s quality.

At present, many farmers’ households and enterprises in the Mekong Delta in particular and throughout the country in general have been clearly aware of the sustainable development of their production. This stems from the market’s requirements, reflects their responsibility to the society, community and the environment, and constitutes a determinant for their existence.

Le Tieu Nga, head of the MARD’s Institute of Fisheries Economics and Planning, said that given the country’s regressing aquatic resources and degrading environment, it was urgent and necessary to develop the sector in tandem with protecting the resources, the environment and the social welfare, as well as adapting to all climate change impacts.

Giss

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