Intensive pond farming

Nowadays pangasius is mostly farmed in earthen ponds operated by corporate farms in the Mekong River Delta. The preferred farming species is Cá Tra (Pangasianodon hypophtalmus). Farming happens mostly in the Mekong River 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 with the provinces Can Tho, An Giang and Dong Thap accounting for over 75% of the total pangasius production.

Key features
Average stocking density

50 pcs/m2

Average productivity

650 tonnes/ha/year

# of crops per year

1.7

# of days per crop

200

Harvesting season

All year round with the main season from April till September.

Type of farmer

Corporate and some small-scale

Potential risks
  • Water pollution
  • Lack of quality assurance due to price pressure

 

Type of farmers

Most farms have a size of a few hectares with several ponds of 0.8 to 1 hectare. Farms are mostly owned by large vertically integrated companies who are also involved in processing and exporting. However, there are also still pockets with smaller scale producers throughout the Mekong Delta but the number of small-scale producers continues to decrease.

Production and harvesting system

Production ponds are two to three meters deep and water is exchanged either by pumping or making use of the tidal hub; letting water in at high tide and releasing it at low tide. Commercially produced pangasius is exclusively farmed in monoculture.

Harvest is mostly carried out by harvesting the entire pond at once. Depending on special order for non-standard sized products, some producers also harvest smaller sizes through partial harvests during the cycle while keeping the rest for full grow-out. Most farmers harvest at a size of 800 to 1,000 grams depending on demand. With a yield of roughly 35% this results in two filets of 140 to 180 grams. For specific markets the harvest weights can reach 1,200 gram resulting in fillets of 220 grams. During harvest the average survival rate is around 76%.

Stocking densities and productivity

Ponds are stocked on average with 50 pcs fish per m2, with typical ranges from 40 to 60 pcs/m2. It is common that bigger farms have several ponds where fingerlings are being stocked in rotating cycles in order to maintain a continuous production cycle. Average productivity is 650 tonnes/ha/year.

Use of seed, feed and other inputs

Fingerlings come exclusively from approved hatcheries. Pangasius breeding is strongly regulated and driven by governmental support. The Vietnamese government operates the most important research centre for pangasius fry, Research Institute for Aquaculture (RIA), which also produces a significant part of the available pangasius fry. Many privately operated hatcheries exist as well, most of which are located in the provinces Dong Thap and An Giang. Pangasius fingerlings are often placed in nurseries before being stocked into ponds. There are a number of specialist nurseries operating in the different provinces. They buy fry from RIA or private hatcheries and raise it to different sizes of fingerlings. Farms use a nursery pond or buy larger fingerlings from nurseries in order to reduce the grow-out period in ponds.

All commercial operating producers use pelleted feed from approved feed mills. There are many big fish feed companies that produce feed for pangasius with specific formulas depending of the respective fish size. Chemicals are generally not used. It might be that some non-certified producers use chemicals such as additives or feeds containing chemicals. The use of chemicals and antibiotics is regulated by law.

Seasonality

Pangasius is stocked in ponds periodically throughout the year with peak stocking times from March to July. This is because hatcheries generally close down during the cold months from November to January as broodstock does not spawn during that time, and therefore fry and fingerlings are not available. Nevertheless, fish can be harvested all year round. Peak harvest takes place between April to September.

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