(fis.com) Thousands of pangasius or tra fish farmers in the Mekong Delta have adopted the Vietnamese Good Agriculture Practice (GAP) standards following the Ministry of Agriculture and Rural Development's (MARD) encouragement.
The standards help farmers achieve stability in production and quality and sell and export their fish more easily, as well as significantly slash costs because fish contract fewer diseases.
Since 2000, the pangasius farming sector has boosted output 36-fold to 1.35 million tones, increased exports of finished products by nearly 40 times to 660,000 tonnes and ramped up export turnover by more than 45 times to USD 1.86 billion. Exports are now shipped to 130 countries worldwide.
Pham Anh Tuan, deputy director of the Department of Fisheries, said consumers in many markets now attach importance to certification such as GlobalGAP in Western Europe and the US and Aquaculture Stewardship Council (ASC) in Northern Europe, VNS reports.
The certificates cover environmental protection, food hygiene and safety, social responsibility and product origin.
"VietGAP certificate includes all of these, and will help exporters upgrade to other certificates easily," Tuan said.
Further, the growing global emphasis on food safety and origin of products mean that fisheries products that meet these requirements would be able to enter international markets more easily, she highlighted.
"The application of VietGAP standards will be essential for the aquaculture industry to make products that meet the world market's requirements. But it is true that many agricultural producers including pangasius farmers are reluctant to adopt safe production methods including VietGAP because they think it is expensive and make them uncompetitive," he added.
In response, the prime minister signed a decision earlier this year offering incentives to farmers and businesses for adopting safe production methods and generating high-quality products. The incentives include full funding for baseline surveys, topographical surveys and analyses of soil, water and air samples to identify areas for concentrated production, plus training and financial support for the adoption of VietGAP standards.
The Directorate of Fisheries of Vietnam last year said it would support and provide free services for VietGAP certification, so pangasius farmers would pay the lower certification fee when registering for Good Agriculture Practices (GlobalGAP), ASC or SQF 1000 certification.
MARD has also set ambitious targets for achieving VietGAP certification: 30 per cent of all aquaculture establishments will achieve it by 2015 and 80 per cent by 2020.
"The cost of raising pangasius to VietGAP standards is 20-25 per cent more when compared with traditional methods, but the benefits this safe production method can bring are much more, so many local farmers decide to adopt it," said Nguyen Van Tam of the Tra Vinh Agriculture Extension Centre.