peaked at around 1,250,000 tonnes (605,000 tonnes export) in 2011, from where it has slightly declined over the past few years.
Since the introduction of pangasius production in Vietnam during the Blue Revolution, the sector has undergone important shifts in the past two decades. In the beginning, production happened in many different cages and ponds by a large number of individual farm owners, but soon bigger enterprises emerged. Production shifted from upstream provinces near the Cambodian border (An Giang, Dong Thap, Can Tho and Vinh Long), towards downstream provinces near the sea (Ben Tre, Hau Giang, Soc Trang, Tra Vinh, and Kien Giang). The preferred farming method changed as well and shifted from cage farming to pond farming. This change also involved a shift from home-made feeds to industrial pelleted feed. In terms of species, it meant a shift from Basa (Pangasius bocourti
) to Cá Tra (Pangasianodon hypophthalmus
). Bigger farms soon became vertically integrated because of two reasons: demand for more integrated supply chains and transparency from importing countries, and efficiency.
Very high competition resulted in the last major production shift: while sales prices for pangasius have always been low, input price hiked in the years 2010/11 and drove many individual farmers out of production. Almost at the same time, pangasius producers came under attack from different actors in Europe. A documentary called ‘Die Pangasius Lüge’ (engl: ‘The pangasius lie’) projected a very distorted picture of the Vietnamese pangasius sector. In combination with a ‘downgrading’ of pangasius in some of the consumer seafood guides provided by different WWF offices in Europe, demand for pangasius in Europe declined rapidly. Even though claims such as pangasius production was leading to severe environmental degradation of an apparently already very degraded Mekong River and causing poverty in Vietnam were far from reality, the negative campaign severely affected the pangasius sector. This has resulted in a huge economic loss and reputation damage of farmed pangasius. Ever since production in Vietnam has been decreasing as demand in some important importing markets has declined.
As a result of the campaign against pangasius, the Vietnamese authorities together with WWF and other NGOs such as the Sustainable Trade Initiative (IDH) and producers have worked on wide-ranging improvements. The sector as a whole has become more regulated and better managed. Today, the majority of production happens on larger farms that are generally vertically integrated with bigger companies such as Vinh Hoan, Agifish, and Huong Vuong owning feed mills, grow-out farms and processing plants. Some producers even have their own hatcheries. A large majority of farms and processing facilities are eco-certified according to different standards including ASC, GlobalGAP, BAP and Naturland organic for farming operations or ISO 14001 for processing facilities. In addition, most are also certified according to other process and social standards. The vertical integration in combination with certification results in very well-managed and transparent supply chains.
There are almost 100 licensed pangasius processing and exporting companies in Vietnam.