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“Experiencing the pangasius farm in the Mekong Delta is such a serene, calm encounter”

October 2, 2020 | Promotion, Sustainability | No Comments

The European Union is traditionally one of the biggest importers of Vietnamese pangasius. It comes as no surprise that the fish frequently finds its way to the dinner table of many European homes. However, Europe and Vietnam are worlds apart – 8,926 kilometers to be exact. So, what is it like for a European to visit the place where one of his favorite dishes, the pangasius fish, comes from?

Astonished by beauty

This is Alfons, an international business consultant from the Netherlands. For his job, he travels to lots of foreign destinations and visits many factories and farms. During a business trip to Vietnam, he decided to take a look in the Mekong Delta, where lots of pangasius farms are situated. “What I encountered there, was amazing. I was actually astonished by how beautiful it looked like.”

Sense of tranquility

Alfons paints a beautiful picture: “In order to visit, you hop-on a small boat that brings you to the farms. When visiting such a pangasius farm, you find yourself on an island in the Mekong River. The water of the river runs on both sides of the isle – next to you – which immediately gives you a sense of tranquility.”

Professionalization of the industry

Due to globalization and the start of pangasius export, the farms and the processing industry experienced modernization and professionalization over the last twenty years. Before then, the fish was merely used for local consumption. Prior knowledge about the size of the sector and the billions of pangasius fillets that are exported all over the world, led Alfons to believe that he would encounter industrial scenes.

“It was such a contrast, simply fascinating! There I was, at a pangasius farm, walking through lush greenery with palm trees, colorful flowers, and small dikes. It was almost like visiting an exotic botanical garden – not really a match when you think of industrial farming. I know that the pangasius sector is huge, however, what I saw was yet so pure, in harmony with nature and serene.”

Mirroring ponds, lined by manicured dikes

But what about the fish itself, how are they farmed? “You hear birdsongs, the sound of the river, and the engines of small fishing boats. Nothing that might reveal any other activity. You even can’t see the pangasius, only ponds that mirror the sun, lined by dikes and flowering bushes. But still, the fish do really swim peacefully – and noiselessly – in the ponds… Until it’s time for the workers to feed the pangasius. A few staff members work their way up on a pontoon with big bags of fish feed, which triggers the pangasius. In a matter of seconds, the fish emerge to the surface of the water to gulp the feed. A wonderful moment of commotion in such a calm scenery. Immediately when the feeding is over, the serenity returns.”

ASC certified and passioned people

Next to the pangasius and the ecosystem, there is one other element that stood out for Alfons. “Most activity on the farm comes from the people who maintain the exotic green on the farm. And they do such a good job! It’s fascinating how tidy it is, it almost looks like a nature resort, including benches in the shadow for the workers to rest. I didn’t expect it to be so neat. Later, I learned that this is part of the way the farm is managed. They are ASC certified, which means they particularly take an interest in the well-being of the animals, workers, and the environment. This reflects on the people – I only saw smiles, passion, and contentment. Most farms are family businesses and their employees usually spend their entire working life with them.”

Picture the serenity of the panga farm

Did his visit to the Mekong Delta change the way Alfons sees and eats pangasius? “You can’t leave Vietnam without tasting how the locals eat pangasius. So, I went to a floating restaurant to make the experience complete. Different from how Western people eat pangasius – we eat fillet – the Vietnamese eat the entire fish. According to locals, I had to try a sweet and sour panga fish soup, which was simply delicious. In the end, the entire adventure changed the way I look at pangasius and the story behind the fish. Now, when I prepare and eat my panga at home, I instantly picture the serenity of the farm. A newfound sensation that makes me enjoy panga even more than before.”