Japanese firm looks to raise export-quality oysters in Vietnam

Japanese seafood producer Yamanaka wants to partner with Vietnam agencies to raise oysters locally for both domestic and international markets.

A feasibility research conducted by Yamanaka in the central province of Khanh Hoa since June last year, with the support of the Japan International Cooperation Agency (JICA), found that raising oysters in Vietnam under two Japanese methods brought high yields as well as oysters of a quality high enough to be eaten raw.

“With this project we hope to establish a foundation for raising oysters with natural disaster resistance to improve productivity and farmer incomes,” said Shinji Takada, CEO of Yamanaka.

Yakamana sells Japanese oysters in 350 sales points in Vietnam, but the company is now seeking to grow the shellfish locally and sell them in Vietnam, Taiwan and Thailand.

Vietnam has nearly 3,000 hectares for oyster farming. The shellfish is being raised in 20 out of 28 seaside localities, with Khanh Hoa and Quang Ninh leading in numbers, according to the International Collaborating Centre for Agriculture and Fisheries Sustainability (ICAFIS).

A farmer in Khanh Hoa needs around VND45 million ($1,904.44) to invest in an oyster raft which would fetch him VND30-50 million worth of oysters in a season. Each household typically has three to five rafts. There are three seasons each year in Vietnam, ICAFIS said.

However, the added value of oysters in Vietnam remains low and therefore only a small amount of them are exported. In Khanh Hoa 95% of oysters are used as lobster food, while 4% goes to domestic consumption and 1% are exported.

Ho Chi Minh City oyster farms produce over 21,000 tonnes of oysters a year but mostly for domestic consumption. Only two companies, BIM Group and VINABS, export oysters regularly.

“A challenge in the oyster farming industry is setting up a clean source of water,” said Dinh Xuan Lap, deputy director of ICAFIS. “[In Vietnam] there is lack of technology to ensure the quality of oysters and to help them cope with natural disasters.”

The hanging method and Australian basket method have both proved to be suitable for producing export-standard oysters in Vietnam, Japanese researchers have found.

“We plan to set up an oyster cleaning system for commercial use, hopefully this or next year,” said Takada.

One important step is identifying which oyster breed to farm, as the popular breeds in Vietnam cannot be raised with the hanging method, said Nguyen Thanh Luan, a seafood farming expert.