The past couple of days have been filled with visits to feed mills and fish farms in the more rural areas of Vietnam. Vietnam is the largest soybean meal buyer in the world, with about 10 million metric tons of soybean meal going to commercial feed production. About 20% of this goes to producing feed for aquaculture in South Vietnam.
Of the various feed mills we visited, most are feeding about 35-40% soybean meal in their fish feed. A few of the mills are using high percentages of US soybeans because of the excellent quality of our beans. However, some feed mills said they’ve had no experience with US beans and are importing mainly from Argentina. After learning about their soybean needs, including how much they import, the size of vessels they can receive, and how frequently they ship, the farmers had the opportunity to explain the potential for importing US beans through Gray’s Harbor in Washington.
Not only did we meet with feed mills, but we also toured some aquaculture farms. A typical fish farm will have about 3-6 separate ponds, for a total of about 12 acres. The most common fish raised commercially in Vietnam is the catfish. Most catfish that are commercially raised on these farms are exported primarily to the US and Europe.
The fish farm we visited on Tuesday was quite a ways off the beaten path, and it was definitely an adventure to get there. After walking through a small town and hiking over a somewhat questionable bridge, we made it! The farm pictured in this post is owned by the Vinh Hoan Corporation, which is one of the top Vietnamese processors and exporters of catfish. Vinh Hoan’s main export market is the US, and they place a very high emphasis on the quality and safety of their products. The company mainly feeds US soybean meal, and they have even instituted a traceability system for their fish. As a US consumer, if you were to buy a Vinh Hoan product in the store, you would be able to tell by the packaging which farm in Vietnam the fish came from.
While we were in the Mekong Delta, we also took a boat ride to see another side of aquaculture. Halfway through our boat ride, we hopped out at a small fish farm on the river. The owner was a Vietnamese lady who welcomed our surprise visit, and she explained how she operates her fish farm. She raises tilapia on the river, and mostly sells her fish in local markets near her town.