VietNamNet Bridge – Phu Quoc fish sauce, which is considered the “national spirit and characteristic,” may disappear forever one day, since Phu Quoc fish sauce makers have turned their backs to the career descended by their ancestors
Fewer fish sauce makers
The years from 2005 to 2010 were considered the hot development period of Phu Quoc fish sauce, when the number of fish sauce makers increased rapidly. However, the golden age is over with the number of fish sauce makers decreasing dramatically.
According to the Phu Quoc island People’s Committee, there are 120 fish sauce workshops in the district. However, the figure is believed to be “out of date.” The number of the Phu Quoc Fish Sauce Association’s members has dropped from 91 in 2010 to 86, according to the association’s chair Nguyen Thi Tinh. In 2010, when the association was set up, there were 63 members.
Nguyen Minh Truc, Head of the Phu Quoc district’s Economics Sub-department, said that there has been no more fish sauce workshop.
“Making fish sauce now cannot bring profits to Phu Quoc’s people any more. Therefore, a lot of families have turned their back to the traditional career,” Truc said. “I have heard that the chair of the association is considering doing business in the tourism sector.”
Small scaled workshops with 10-30 fish sauce barrels prove to be the first ones who suffered from the cutthroat competition with big enterprises. About 50 percent of the workshops are the members of the Phu Quoc Fish Sauce Association.
The supply of anchovy, which is the main material to make fish sauce, has become depleted, while the demand for materials has been increasing rapidly. Small workshops, therefore, cannot compete with bigger ones in collecting materials.
However, in fact, even big workshops have also been facing big difficulties because of the economic downturn, the high bank loan interest rates, and especially because they cannot compete with the big guys who are making sauces in different kinds right on their homeland.
Counterfeit fish sauce gradually replaces real fish sauce
When asked about where Phu Quoc fish sauce products have been selling, Tinh said that about 60-70 percent of Phu Quoc fish sauce products have been sold to the companies which would process different kinds of sauces now dominating the market.
However, later, at the end of the meeting with reporters, Tinh said that over 90 percent of fish sauce made in Phu Quoc district has been “reincarnated” as non-Phu Quoc sauce products. These products are introduced as “high quality fish sauce” and given dainty names, but in fact, they are not real fish sauce.
Truong Hong Huong, Director of Hong Dai Company, complained that the real fish sauce makers like him now do not have the power to decide the input cost and the outlet of products.
The input material costs have been increasing continuously, because fishermen now have to go out to the open sea to catch anchovies. Meanwhile, they cannot raise the sale prices of fish sauce products, because their products have to compete fiercely with the products introduced as fish sauce, but are not made in accordance with the standard production process applied to make traditional fish sauce.
Analysts have also said that the counterfeit fish sauce products should be called “nuoc cham” (sauce) instead of “nuoc mam” (fish sauce).
In Phu Quoc, most of the fish sauce workshops now have to sell their fish sauce to Masan Group through Hong Ngoc Company. The enterprise has ships that carry Phu Quoc fish sauce to HCM City.
Category : Overview