Vietnam’s farmed catfish sector could prove real boon for US DDGS exporters

By Jane Byrne contact

- Last updated on GMT

© GettyImages/Valerii Evlakhov
© GettyImages/Valerii Evlakhov

Related tags: catfish, Vietnam, Usda, Ddgs, Corn

Vietnam is by far the largest importer of corn in Southeast Asia and the USDA forecasts it to be the fifth-largest importer of that grain globally in 2021/22.

While pork has typically been the number one meat choice in that country, consumption of chicken meat and beef has grown as well, according to a newly published USDA FAS International Agricultural Trade Report.

Aquaculture is also an expanding industry in Vietnam and represents a continuing opportunity for exporters of feed ingredients, noted the document.

Background to corn import trend

“Vietnam corn production began increasing in the 1980s and continued this general trend through 2015. However, it reached an inflection point in 2015/16 as imports exceeded production for the first time since the 1970s. Corn production stalled and started to decline as domestic producers were increasingly less able to compete with imported corn on both cost and quality, which discouraged them from expanding corn area.”

Argentina and Brazil have supplied the majority of Vietnam corn imports from 2013/14 to the present.

“Despite the 2019 incidence of African swine fever (ASF) in Vietnam, importers appeared relatively undeterred as corn imports continued unabated. The decline in the current year forecast for Vietnam corn imports represents the first year-to-year decline since 2011/12 and is attributable primarily to lower exportable supplies from a frost-damaged safrinha in Brazil.”

US corn has generally been less competitive than South American corn due to price, noted the report. Vietnam imported the largest volume of US corn in the 2018/19 marketing year, when corn production in Argentina and Brazil was negatively affected by drought.

Potential of Vietnamese aquaculture sector for US feedstuffs

Though the US is, at best, a residual supplier of corn to Vietnam, US exports of distiller’s dried grains with solubles (DDGS) have grown during the past decade, commented the author.

Vietnam is now one of the top importers of this commodity from the US, using DDGS as a high protein and energy content feed ingredient. US DDGS exports to Vietnam in 2020 totaled nearly 1.3 million tons, valued at more than $275m, reported the USDA.

Looking at potential areas for further use of US DDGS in feed applications in Vietnam, the authors cited a 2016 review​ of aquaculture feed in Asia and the Americas, which indicated that the feed ingredients used in aqua feed in Vietnam include soybean meal, rice bran, and fishmeal. 

Vietnamese catfish is a major component of aquaculture production, found the report.

“A 2009 feeding trial ​sponsored by US Grains Council showed that DDGS can readily be added to Vietnamese catfish diets as well, demonstrating that it could substitute, in limited quantities, other protein sources.

“Commercial aquaculture feeds in the US include corn as an ingredient. Though the catfish species differ between the US and Vietnam, growth in catfish feeds could represent further demand for corn in Vietnam.

“On top of the recovery of pork production and expansion of beef and poultry meat production, Vietnam’s growing aquaculture industry offers further opportunities for exporters of corn and DDGS as feed ingredients.”

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