The Basics of Pangasius Aquaculture, Part 2 Advantage

Pangasius Hypophthalmus

The Pangasius goes by so many names. This fish went through a sea of naming since it pierced through the market. Some years ago, it was even sold as Sea-Sole and compared to the Dover Sole. Then it was used as White River Cobbler, US-Catfish, Swai and even Grouper and White Mekong Grouper. Some call it Stachelwels, which is its German biological classification. Some call it Basa even if it is in fact a Tra in Vietnamese. Some call it Hypo-Basa, which is a name-mix of hypophthalmus and Basa, which technically doesn’t exists because it’s either just a hypophthalmus or a Basa. Nowadays, abroad, it goes by the name White roughly, Royal basa, Mekong catfish, Pangasius catfish; and Mekong Kanduli, Kanduhito or Pangasius locally.

At the moment, even the so-called Bio-Pangasius is offered in the market. The fish from the Mekong Delta attracts over 65 markets in the world and 600.000 tons come from the farms mostly in An Giang and the River Hau, the biggest processing area for this valuable catfish in Vietnam.

On the other hand, issues have been raised by the Americans who have ruled out that the Pangasius from Vietnam aren’t catfish at all and that their Ictalurus are. However, biologically and scientifically the Pangasius remains a catfish because of its physical appearance and behavioral patterns that resemble other catfishes’. The Vietnamese do hope that the Pangasius will be named Pangasius all over the world.

Today, 98% of Pangasius in the market is Pangasius hypophthalmus. The other 2% is the very expensive Pangasius bocourti—sold at twice the price of Pangasius hypophthalmus.

This fish is easy to farm, easy to process and fast in reproduction-reasons enough to make Pangasius global aquaculture’s next in thing. In fact, Russia became a big market for it, and even the Japanese, who normally do not like freshwater fish (except of eel) and the French, (who never include Catfish in their haute cuisine) are starting to like this catch from the Mekong Farms.

It is easy to use, light to eat and fits every taste and kitchen, probably even more than salmon. The Pangasius changed the world of Aquaculture fish in general and will be as successful as the Salmon or the Tilapia.

Pangasius also acquired pet names like iridescent shark, Siamese shark or sutchi catfish, but despite its name, iridescent shark is not a shark, but a catfish. This fish is also associated with the aquarium hobby or as swai or striped catfish in the food fish market, or as panga (though this name should be rather used for Pterogymnus laniarius).

They are found in Southeast Asia in the Mekong basin as well as the Chao Phraya River, and are heavily cultivated for food there. It has also been presented into other river basins as a food source and is ordinary in the fish keeping hobby. It is named ‘iridescent’ for its glow or iridescence exhibited in juveniles.

In 2007 alone, the amount produced in the fish farms of the Mekong Delta will reach a million metric tons and it is expected that there will be more that would be reach until 2010. The fish is distributed already into 65 markets all over the world and one of the most successful whitefish species of all times and is probably only comparable to the seawater catches of Cod and Alaska Pollack. And certainly, the International Whitefish Convention, which meets in London this year is looking forward to more discussions about Pangasius.

The Advantage of Pangasius

We interviewed three people on why they think people should look at Pangasius as Philippine agriculture/ aquaculture’s next saving grace: (A) Marid Agribusiness Digest Chairman Angelito Sarmiento, (B) Vitarich Corp’s Marketing Director Ricardo Manuel Sarmiento and (C) Aqualine Assistant Marketing Manager Imee Chun.

Why should Filipinos welcome Pangasius?

  • A: This is the specie that’s easy to take care, user-friendly. This is what Filipinos have been looking for.
  • B: We’re trying to make a new industry. It’s an alternative fish that can generate jobs and income for the farmers. It’s an exportable fish.
  • C: It is now the most sought-after fish in US and Europe, and there is still an increasing demand for it in the worldwide market. We are blessed that we can culture it here in the Philippines since we have plenty of freshwater.

What is its difference from other fish like tilapia and bangus? And from other catfish that we know?

  • A: It’s blunt, bigger that other catfish, it has a texture compared to tilapia. And it goes with any sauce.
  • B: When it comes to raising, it doesn’t die easily. It grows faster. In fact, you can stock more in one area. You don’t have to make extra land and farm, you can do more volume and harvest in one area.
  • C: The difference is how it is culture and its sturdiness compared to bangus and tilapia. Sturdiness is its capability to live with low dissolve oxygen level because this fish is an air breather. This fish can be cultured in brackish water with certain water parameters, but this fish is really cultured in freshwater and not saltwater.

What is its market and capital investment?

  • A: It’s for Asians and Caucasians. Unlike bangus, it’s for everyone. It’s an alternative for the backyard piggeries in Manila, actually. B: Our initial market is the European country which imports large volume of Pangasius fillet. The fingerlings costs around P3 -P3-50 for 2 cm. Larger ones are for P6 and up. There are bulk discounts for big orders. Total production cost is about 80%. Harvestable size should be 1 kilo and up to fillet it for export. Fillet is sold at about P220- P280 per kilo in the Philippine supermarkets.
  • C: The capital investment would depend on the stocking density and the area of culture. Feed and fingerling cost is almost 70% of the total production. But with good quality fingerling and good management, a grower can hit market growing proficiency. The market would be local and international. Locally, we are developing and introducing the fish to the market by giving out seminars and trainings. For international market, we would want to tap the European market since it is a very big market for fillet exports. But we are not limiting it in Europe only, we would want to also look for the other countries that are also importing this fish.

author: Hans Audrice B. Estalbo, Marid Digest

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