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Rosy seafood export   2009-05-02 - VEN

In this difficult period for economic development, there arise some positive signs for Vietnam's seafood export. However, a suitable management mechanism must be put into place to bring forth these favorable conditions and achieve seafood sustainable development.


Numerous difficulties


Vietnam exported 166,695 tonnes of seafood in the first quarter of 2009, gaining US$579.2 million in total export value, down more than eight percent in both volume and value compared to that in the same period of 2008, according to the Vietnam Association and Seafood Exporters and Producers (VASEP).


Lower exports were attributed to decreased consumption in major import markets and difficulties associated with the lack of material for processing.


Also in the first quarter, Vietnamese seafood was exported to 122 markets, down 37 markets in number compared to 2008. The export value to major import markets of Vietnamese seafood was almost down (except that to China, Australia and ASEAN).


Particularly, the export value to EU, Vietnam's largest seafood export market (holding 26 percent of Vietnam's total seafood export value) went down nearly 15 percent, that to Japan, the second largest market, was down nine percent, to the US down 3.3 percent, and to the Republic of Korea down 8.5 percent. However, the export value to ASEAN rose 16.1 percent, to China up 37.7 percent and to Australia up 20 percent, respectively.


VASEP expects the export of seafood will face a lot of difficulties in the forthcoming months. The 2008 Agricultural Law of the US will badly affect Vietnam's export of Tra and Basa fish in the coming time. VASEP also expects 2009 to be another difficult year for Vietnam's shrimp export due to decreased consumption in most import markets, lowered US dollar value, and businesses' struggled operation due to the lack of raw materials and investment capital.


Positive signals


VASEP's permanent deputy chairman Nguyen Huu Dung said despite facing some difficulties Vietnam's export of Tra and Basa fish has certain advantages thanks to stable quality and competitive prices.


There have been positive signs in Tra and Basa fish export in early 2009. In mid March, the Tra Fish Export Steering Committee came to Russia to sign contract for Tra re-export to Russia. Of 30 businesses that can export Tra fish to Russia 10 businesses are Tra fish exporters, and the remaining 20 businesses are dried seafood exporters. The committee's head Duong Ngoc Minh said Vietnam's seafood export to Russia can reach US$500 million per year. Russia will potentially become Vietnam's largest seafood export market, but not Japan, the US or the EU, in his view.


In addition, one of the contract terms says that Russian partners wanting to import huge Vietnamese Tra fish volume, have to import other seafood items, said Minh. Therefore, besides Tra fish, the export volume of other seafood to Russia is expected to be on the rise in the coming months.


Most recently, in the website of Egypt Ministry of Agriculture and Land Reform, Minister Amin Abaza said that Vietnamese Basa fish is entirely safe to health based on sample testing results.


About the fact that some Vietnamese Basa fish shipments were returned, Dr. Youssef Mamdouth, the president of Egypt General Organization for Veterinary Services and Quarantine said only nine out of 265 Basa fish export shipments were returned in the first quarter of 2009. He said it was a commonplace and that could also occur to beef or chicken export, for example.


Also early in the first quarter of 2009, Spanish Ministry of Health and Consumption said Vietnamese Tra and Basa fish satisfies EU food sanitation standards, not posing any threat to people's health and then it does not hinder the export of Tra fish into Spain.


Earlier, Brazil, the largest export market in South America, promulgated a list of 60 Vietnamese seafood businesses liable for direct export to its market. Thus far, Vietnamese seafood enters Brazil through intermediaries.


In a working session with the Cuu Long (Mekong) Delta management to discuss measures to stimulate production and consumption of Tra and Basa fish in mid-March 2009 Prime Minister Nguyen Tan Dung highlighted the importance of Tra and Basa fish to the Mekong Delta particularly and Vietnam generally development.


He said Tra and Basa fish was now sold worldwide and building Tra and Basa fish strong trademark was of paramount importance. Presenting suitable policies to assure sustainable growth of Tra and Basa fish farming and processing is also needed.


The Prime Minister also approved with the Ministry of Agriculture and Rural Development on the establishment of a steering committee to stimulate Tra fish production and consumption, thus turning it into one of the country's major export earners.


With its ambitious plans VASEP expects Vietnam can gain an estimated US$4.5 billion from seafood export in 2009, equal to 2008's level.

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