When they got married and started a new life together, Phan Van Chung and his wife received a small gold ring and a rickety boat from their families.
Phan Van Chung and his fish pond. Moving to Dong Thap from An Giang Province in search of an escape from poverty, Chung has struck it rich breeding snakehead fish. — VNS Photo Le Hoang Vu
DONG THAP —
Natives of An Giang, the couple moved to Dong Thap, another province in the Cuu Long (Cuu Long (Mekong) Delta), to try and earn their living there.
The couple did odd jobs as hired labourers as well as fishing, saving enough money to start a fish farm of their own.
"We had nothing except empty hands when we arrived in Phu Hiep (a commune in the province)," recalled Chung.
That was fifteen years ago.
Now, Chung is a well-known success story who has been awarded the title of prominent farmer in the province for several years.
Every year, his farm supplies the market with hundreds of tonnes of snakehead fish, earning billions of dong. The intrepid entrepreneur takes the risk of breeding and selling the fish during the off season to get higher prices.
Usually, farmers in the Cuu Long (Mekong) Delta cultivate the snakehead fish from September to March, but Chung does this between April and August.
In fact, he even has his fish insured. Each month he pays around VND10 million (US$483) to protect his family business that now extends to nine ponds on four ha of land near the Tram Chim National Forest.
Chung says that he has never suffered a loss over the last 10 years, thanks to his knowledge of fish breeding that he gained from neighbours and agricultural experts.
Last year, he invested VND2.5 billion ($120,000) on developing 300,000 fish fry, and after six months, he had harvested more than 150 tonnes of the fish. After all expenses, he earned a profit of over VND600 million ($29,000).
His fish farm is a big consumer of saltwater fish that is used to feed his snakehead fish, creating jobs for many people in the locality.
Besides providing jobs on and off his farm, Chung also supplies fish fry to farmers in the area as well as neighbouring provinces.
Chung began breeding the snakehead fish in 1995. He discussed with his wife a plan to spend VND15 million ($724) on dredging a 2,000sq.m pond and breed 35,000 fish fry.
More than 10 months later, he sold all the fish and collected more than VND100 million ($4,800). He continued farming the fish, this time breeding 70,000. The harvest fetched him VND140 million in profit.
"It was more than I expected. I realised that breeding snakehead fish can be very profitable, so I decided to expand the farm," Chung said.
From 2,000sq.m, he expanded the farm to two ha, and later to the current four ha with nine ponds.
Besides the fish ponds, the family has bought many more ha of land, and Chung proudly tells curious visitors and admiring neighbours about the great changes that have happened in his life 15 years after he moved to Dong Thap. — VNS