Pangasius in Vietnam

Vietnam’s pangasius sector is important both in terms of production and from a historical point of view. Vietnam contributes around 90% of the world pangasius production. Therefore it is clear that the introduction of pangasius production in Vietnam is often claimed a success story in aquaculture development. The rise and development of the pangasius sector in Vietnam is a showcase of the Blue Revolution, which refers to the emergence of aquaculture as an important and highly productive agricultural activity in the 1990s. In ten years, production increased from a low 22,500 tonnes of farmed fish in 1997 (of which 7,000 tonnes were exported as final products) to 825,000 tonnes (286,000 tonnes exported products) in 2006. Production

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.

  • Factory

Sourcing news

Pangasius production and export statistics

Species production

Source: FAO (2018)

The total pangasius production has slightly decreased from its peak in 2012, but production has picked up again after 2014. Furthermore VASEP reports that the change in demand for raw materials in export enterprises led to an unstable price of pangasius. Therefore farmers limited their stocking. In April 2016, pangasius price rose from the beginning of the year, however, small-scale farmers have not earned profits from this price yet. Therefore, in April, farmers continued to follow market developments, and pangasius stocking was showing a downward trend.

Production by province in 2016

Source: VASEP/MARED 2017

Geographically, farming happens mostly in the Mekong Delta, including the provinces An Giang, Dong Thap, Tien Giang, Can Tho, Vinh Long, Ben Tre, Hau Giang, Soc Trang, Tra Vinh, and Kien Giang. In addition there is some production in Tay Ninh province northwest of Ho Chi Minh City and Quang Nam province in central Vietnam.

The total farming area was 5,623 hectares in 2015, which is a 231 ha increase since 2010. Dong Thap represents the province with the highest production volume, accounting for nearly a third of the total output. It is followed by An Giang (21%), Can Tho (11%), Ben Tre (15%) and Vinh Long (7%)

Pangasius export markets

Trade Map (2018), International Trade Centre, 2017 figures are mirror data

Pangasius exports dropped to 550,000 tonnes in 2017, with a commercial value of 1,280 million US$. Figures were higher in 2016 with a total of 619,000 tonnes worth 1,673 million US$. The United States and the EU and EFTA are the main import markets, responsible for around 28% and 17% of the total market share respectively. Within the European

Union the main markets are the United Kingdom, the Netherlands, Germany, Belgium and Spain together accounting for roughly 66% of the EU total. Spain drastically reduces its import by US$ 40 mln or 65% decrease compared to 2016, which is likely a result of the misleading information broadcast by the Spanish television channel Cuatro in the past.

The United States overtook the European Union as most important market partner for Vietnamese pangasius in 2014. Since then exports to the US have been relatively stable. Meanwhile, the Vietnam pangasius export market is diversifying and is filling an apparent gap in the more traditional markets of Latin America and Asia. Demand for Vietnamese pangasius has increased in countries such as Brazil, Mexico, and China who became second runner up in 2016, which might also be the case for 2017 as these figures are not yet set.

Export products in 2017 (US$ mln)

Trade Map (2018), International Trade Centre, Please note that above figures do not contain value added products, and that the figures are mirror data.

Frozen fillets are by far the most preferred export product and account for roughly 93% of the total export value. Whole fish accounts for roughly 5%. According to the mirror data, exports of whole frozen fish has halved in 2017 while fresh fillets and fresh whole have increased seven and ten fold respectively compared to 2016. Even though different companies have tried to improve the very low sales margins for pangasius products by creating different value-added products, fillets are by far the preferred product on the market.


Last updated: 01/10/2018

  • Aquaculture Stewardship Council (ASC)

    # Farms 45
    # Farms in assessment 1
    # CoC partners 43
    Total volume (MT) 242,810
  • Best Aquaculture Practices (BAP)

    # Farms 10
    # Hatcheries 4
    # Feed mills 7
    # Factories 14

    # Farms 5

Supply Chain

Eager to learn more about pangasius or specific suppliers? Contact us!

Risk assessment

Environmental risks

  • Overfishing as a result of unsustainable feed
  • Water pollution
  • Flooding
  • Biodiversity

Social risks

  • Workers’ safety in factories
  • Workers’ rights in factories
  • Bankruptcy resulting in losses for employees and creditors

Quality and supply chain risks

  • Soaking of products due to price pressure
  • Low quality (e.g. excessive soaking and glazing)
  • Lack of quality assurance due to price pressure
  • Issues in cold supply chain due to careless loading/unloading

Species in Vietnam

Click on the species and find out more about the species in Vietnam