The Basics of Pangasius Aquaculture, Part 5 Diseases


The Pangasius, same as all other fishes can get diseases such Ichthoyophthirius species parasite, the Trichodina species parasite, inflammation of stomach disease, diseases from the Dactylogyrus species parasite or flat-body parasite and the rice-shape wart disease. This is why it’s important to have traceability of the production (from processing plant to farm hatchery and feed mill) and an appropriate culturing environment (double check site selection and production practices, as well as sanitation).

It was during the first four months of 2006 that progress in farmed Pangasius production in Vietnam along with buoyant international whitefish demand took a significant increase in export volumes. Compared to January-April 2005, Vietnamese volume exports of Pangasius jumped by over 150% to 83,000 tones while the value of exports raised by 140% to $200 million, according to Vietnamese trade figures. 2005 in total amounted to 141,000 tones in export worth $328 million.

The increases during the past year mark acceleration in the upward trend in Vietnamese exports which has been obvious over the past five years. They are also a confirmation of the mounting role of Pangasius products in international whitefish markets, which is reflected in increasing penetration among European retail chains.

In line with an expanding production area devoted to Pangasius farming, Vietnamese output has increased strongly over the past ten years. From 40,000 tones in 1997, farmed volumes passed the 200,000 tone mark in 2004. For 2005, volumes are estimated to have increased by a further 47% to 376,000 tones.

Among EU markets, Vietnamese trade figures point to large increases in sales to Poland, Spain and the Netherlands this year. At 10,000 tones, Poland was the largest customer within the EU during the first four months of 2006 with Vietnamese exports to this market jumping from less than 1,000 tones during the January-April 2005 period. Sales to Spain doubled over the period to 7,000 tones while volumes to the Netherlands were up from less than 300 tones to over 5,000 tones.

The increase in exports to European markets contrasts with declines in Vietnamese volume sales of Pangasius to China (-22%), and Australia (-7%). These declines were, however, more than balanced by the European increases as well as by increased exports to other Asian markets excluding China. Once considered one of the main markets for Pangasius, the US decline this year confirms the steady downward trend.

Increasing Continually

Freshwater fish species are expected to be cheaper substitutes for white fish which are preferred by many EU customers but which are increasingly expensive due to reduced landings and quota policies. Low price is the main competitive advantage of Pangasius compared with other fish.

According to Eurostat, Germany imported 4,403 tonnes of frozen fillets of freshwater fish during the first eight months of 2005, an increase of 67% compared to the same period of 2004. Vietnam has now overtaken Russia to become the biggest supplier of frozen freshwater fillets to Germany with a share of 37% this year. The strong performance of Vietnam appears to have been helped by a low price level. The unit price for Vietnamese products, at 2.16/kg, was much lower than the overall average unit price of 3-55/kg and lower than the average unit prices for other key suppliers such as the Netherlands (4.90/kg) and Russia (4.40/kg).

In Italy, Vietnam has also achieved a good growth rate this year, with Italian imports of frozen freshwater fillets from Vietnam up 122% for the first eight months of 2005. The 45% Vietnamese share of Italian imports in this category this year compares with 32% during the same period last year. The average unit price of Vietnamese product (2.20/kg) is somewhat lower than the overall category average of 2.50/kg, a differential which may help explain the Vietnamese volume increase.

In Spain, the average import unit price for Vietnamese frozen fillets, at 2.37/kg, is also lower than the overall average of 2.58/kg. The average unit price for Vietnamese product is down 7% this year while unit prices for competing products have been increasing. The Vietnamese share of Spanish volume imports remains strong at almost 70%, an increase on the 65% share during the first nine months of 2004.

In line with the positive import trends in other EU markets, Belgian imports of frozen freshwater fish fillets increased by 36% during the first nine months of 2005 compared to the same period of 2004. With imports from Vietnam up by 65%, the Vietnamese share of Belgian imports increased from 20% of 2004 to 24% of 2005, confirming its number one supplier position.

The viewpoint for additional increase potential for Pangasius products appears optimistic.

Consumer curiosity in balanced protein diets should mean continued buoyancy in whitefish markets. With
comparatively immobile or declining supplies of traditional whitefish species, market awareness in price competitive aquaculture products such as Pangasius should carry on to expand. On the production side, adaptation to a larger scale market situation will remain a key challenge for the industry over the medium term. And ultimately, the future looks bright for Pangasius and those who want to culture it.

Sample Recipe

Skewers of arugula-wrapped pangasius with shrimp broth Nutritional value (110 g raw)

  • Calories: 65
  • Cholesterol: o mg
  • Lipides: 500 g
  • Sodium: 330 mg
  • Saturated fat: o mg
  • Proteins: 14 g


  1. Look for flesh that is firm, moist and has a pleasant fresh smell. Full fillet is about 3 pounds. 6 to 8 oz per serving.
  2. Wrap well in plastic wrap or place in a covered container.
  3. Refrigerate for up to 3 days or you can freeze for up to 3 months providing your freezer operates at -18°C.
  4. Due to its low water content, it is recommended that you marinate for 15 minutes in court bouillon with your favorite spices before baking, broiling or barbecuing.
  5. Its pink boneless flesh has a delicate flavor and fine texture.
  6. Dip the fish fillets in beaten egg, then in bread crumbs. Season.
  7. Fry in oil until golden for about 3 minutes on each side until crispy. Serve with pesto potatoes.

author: Hans Audrice B. Estalbo, Marid Digest

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