In May 2024, Vietnam recorded the highest monthly export volumes of pangasius in two years, mainly due to rising demand from China.

But rapidly rising freight rates and low prices are wiping out some of those gains, according to the Vietnam Association of Seafood Exporters and Producers (VASEP).

Vietnam shipped more than 83,000 metric tons (MT) of pangasius to the global market in May, up 46 percent year-on-year and up 8 percent from April 2024. It was the largest monthly total since May 2022 and marked the third consecutive month of growth in the country’s pangasius export volume.

Exports of Vietnamese pangasius to China, including Hong Kong, rose 20 percent year-on-year in May to more than 29,000 tons, the largest total since February 2023. The Chinese market more reliable in recent months, with growing demand and stable prices for types of whitefish with a lower valueAccording to VASEP, this will continue to boost Vietnamese pangasius exports in the second half of the year.

Pangasius remains cheaper in many Chinese stores than domestically farmed freshwater fish such as carp. With the weakening of the Chinese economy forcing consumers to limit their spendingpangasius is becoming increasingly popular and gain a firm foothold in the marketsaid VASEP.

However, although export volumes increased significantly, the value of pangasius exports to China increased only 0.4 percent year-on-year in May to USD 50.3 million (EUR 46.4 million). In the first five months of 2024, sales to China decreased 13 percent year-on-year to USD 203 million (EUR 187.5 million), mainly due to a drop in export prices.

This decline in pangasius export prices was seen in several markets.

At the end of May, the average price of Vietnamese pangasius exported to China fell 1 percent month-on-month to $1.88 (€1.74) per kilogram, rates to Mexico fell 7.4 percent to $2.13 (€1.97) per kilogram, export prices to the EU fell 5 percent to $2.43 (€2.24) per kilogram, prices to the United Kingdom fell 7.2 percent to $2.43 (€2.24) per kilogram and prices to Brazil fell 1.5 percent to $2.69 (€2.48) per kilogram.

In contrast, the average price of pangasius exported to the US rose 1.7 percent month-on-month to $2.95 (€2.72) per kilogram.

While the spike in U.S. sales was a bright spot, Le Thuy Trang, Vietnam sales manager at Siam Canadian, said he thinks May could mark a peak for the year. He cited falling export prices, high freight rates and low farm gate prices as reasons why sales could continue to decline as the year progresses.

Data from VASEP support this claim and show that …