Several fish farmers in Vietnam’s Mekong Delta have been plagued by massive bank loans as a former director of an enterprise suddenly left the country after purchasing their fish without payment four years ago.
Luu Bach Thao, former general director of Vietnam’s Anvifish Joint Stock Company, absconded with over VND300 billion ($12.9 million), which constitutes as the firm’s debt to farmers, according to Thao’s current successor, Ngo Van Thu.
The private entity now owes them only VND127 billion ($5.5 million) following the corporate efforts to handle Thao’s legacy, but some farmers are still losing sleep over their outstanding bank debt.
One of them is Cao Luong Tri, in An Giang Province, who said he had sold fish to Anvifish in accordance with four out of eight purchase contracts signed with the company in late 2013, but Thao left the company to stay abroad out of the blue in April 2014 without paying him more than VND56 billion ($2.4 million).
Tri said he made the deal because he was impressed by a ‘shining’ financial report that Thao presented to him.
The farmer’s nine-hectare body of water for raising catfish – one of Vietnam’s chief exports to the United States – has since been idle and overgrown with weeds, meaning that it now fails to provide around 6,000 tonnes of fish as it used to.
Tri is holding his three houses and nine-hectare land as collateral for a bank loan worth nearly VND20 billion ($860,000) that he took out to invest in his fish farm.
He has managed to settle an interest charge of about VND150 million ($6,500) with great difficulty every month.
In the same boat with Tri is Dinh Van Can, to whom Anvifish owes a sum more than twice the amount it does to the former.
Can said as the enterprise only pays him about 0.1 percent of that sum yearly, his business has been stagnant and 50 hectares of his land is being held as security.
Anvifish’s current director said his company is expected to revive late this year but did not clarify whether all its debt to farmers would be cleared then.
Some affected farmers have filed lawsuits against former director Thao for years but the case has not been dealt with completely.
Thao has been only charged with ‘swindling to appropriate assets,’ according to Bui Be Tu, head of the An Giang Police Department.