Nile perch being processed. (Photo: Stock File/ GNU License)
Nile perch exporters to face difficulty
Tuesday, March 16, 2010, 02:00 (GMT + 9)
Nile perch fillet exporters may be challenged this year when the US imposes a new farming bill that will restrict imports of pangasius. The performance of one species in the international market affects the other, as both fish are classified as “white meat.”
“In 2010 the US farming bill could change the situation dramatically for pangasius imports when it is released. This bill would identify pangasius as catfish and put it under the rather restrictive sanitary control of the US Department of Agriculture,” reads a market report for March by Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO) analysts.
The US greatly increased pangasius imports in the first 10 months of 2009 compared with the same period in 2008. Vietnam exported 34,500 tonnes of the fish there, 72 per cent more than during the same period of 2008.
“[The bill] has still not been set in motion and the consequences remain uncertain at present. The Russian market is the other unknown entity, and should the major buyers decide not to purchase, as happened during 2009, these products will flood the Western European market, creating many problems for the industry,” FAO’s Helga Josupeit said, Business Daily Africa reports.
Vietnamese pangasius is popular in Western European markets partly due to its low price. Spain and Germany have become its top two importers, growing their imports by 7 and 4 per cent, respectively, in 2009.
Once pangasius aquaculture takes off in Vietnam, total annual production will be 1.6 million tonnes, meaning that 600,000 tonnes of additional fish could inundate the market and harm current price conditions.
“Despite the weak supply, prices of Nile perch are going down. This is mainly caused by the strong competition of pangasius fillets in the market,” FAO said in an outlook late in 2009.
Kenya and other East African countries depend mainly on Lake Victoria for fishing of Nile perch despite recently dwindling resources and poor prices in the international market.
“Business has been tough in that stocks are difficult to come by and prices have also not been encouraging. The end markets in Europe have been enticing in terms of price rewards and some people have even resorted to pushing sales locally instead of sending them abroad on basis of economies of scale,” said James Owiti, a Kisumu-based Nile perch dealer.
Prices of Nile perch in major international markets have also been diving due to the competition of low-priced pangasius. Experts are thus recommending improved value addition to products through certification schemes to up their competitiveness.
Nile perch dealers at Lake Victoria have been embracing certification through schemes such as German eco-certifier Naturland. The certification spans some eight landing sites in the lake’s western region and about 1,000 fishermen in Bukoba, Tanzania.
Products will be both frozen and chilled fillets under the plan and in German-speaking countries at the outset.
- Nile perch fishery in danger
- Review of rules extended for imported pangasius
- Pangasius exports climb
By Natalia Real