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Vietnam catfish growers discouraged as GlobalGAP products unwelcomed

Monday, November 17, 2014, 16:45 GMT+7

A couple of catfish growers in a southern Vietnamese province want to stop deploying the GlobalGAP standards despite the massive amount of time and money they exerted to follow these good practices as their efforts have not paid off.

Giang Van Bay was one of the four households in Tra Vinh Province that met all standards to apply the GlobalGAP standards for catfish growing back in 2012.

GlobalGAP is an internationally-recognized set of farm standards dedicated to Good Agricultural Practices (GAP) that covers all aspects of feed manufacturing, from raw material sourcing to the finished feed products used on a farm.

When the project, backed by the provincial administration and several foreign sponsors, was first introduced in July 2012, hundreds of local catfish growers signed up, but only 33 were qualified to pass the first round of selections.

These households were reviewed again to determine the four finalists.

Among the sponsors are the German Federal Enterprise for International Cooperation, the Dutch Sustainable Trade Initiative and the World Wide Fund for Nature.

Bay and three other finalists were granted the GlobalGAP certificate in April, 2014.

The GlobalGAP certificate is a reassurance that food reaches accepted levels of safety and quality, and has been produced sustainably, respecting the health, safety and welfare of workers, the environment, and in consideration of animal welfare issues, according to Bureau Veritas, a French company that provides testing, inspection and certification services.

The catfish growers had expected their fish would bring in higher values than those raised normally, but they were wrong.

When the catfish growers called in two companies that had committed to buying all the products under the project in June, the firms said they could not buy their fish due to difficulties in finding product outlets.

The farmers had to sell the fish to local traders at prices similar to traditionally-raised catfish.

“I’m deeply disappointed,” Bay told Tuoi Tre (Youth) newspaper.

“We thought our GlobalGAP products would become sought after by seafood businesses, but they didn’t.”

“Most of the farmers joining the GlobalGAP project hoped that they would easily sell their products at high prices,” Nguyen Ru Be, a local agricultural technical expert, said.

“The reality is there is currently no clear distinction between traditionally-raised and GlobalGAP products.”

Be added that local seafood traders do not care whether the products are raised under GlobalGAP standards or not.

“Without government support, it is inevitable that farmers will get rid of the GlobalGAP standards, and we cannot blame them,” Be said.

A huge waste

Of the four GlobalGAP farmers in Tra Vinh, Giang Thanh Son has managed to sell all of his catfish.

Le Van Thang, one of the four, will start harvesting his in February and is worried by Bay’s story.

Thang has been trying to find buyers for his products months before the harvest, but his efforts have been in vain, he said.

“My GlobalGAP certificate will expire in April, 2015, so if my harvest cannot be sold at high prices, I will quit,” he said.

Bay said it would be a huge waste if the GlobalGAP project were ended.

“If farmers in the project could enjoy a profit of VND2,000-3,000 per kg, I’m sure every catfish grower will ask to join in,” he said.

Truong The Van, deputy chairman of the Tra Vinh Seafood Association, also expressed his sorrow at the unsatisfying outcome of the project.

“We are sorry but we cannot do anything to save the situation,” he admitted. 

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