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Vietnamese Seafood Exports Strong in 2014 but Difficult to Maintain in 2015 - Vietnam Briefing News

HCMC – Vietnamese seafood exports surged in 2014 with an export turnover of US$7.9 billion, the highest levels in three years. This exceeded the target of the Vietnam Association of Seafood Exporters and Producers (VASEP) by US$920 million and was an 18.4 percent increase on 2013. The main seafood exports from Vietnam, by value of exports, are frozen shrimp, pangasius catfish, tuna and other fish, mollusks and crustaceans.

The production and processing of seafood in Vietnam is generally done by domestic companies. The fish are checked for quality and frozen for export at processing factories. To meet export standards, the factories must be certified that they are in compliance with Hazard Analysis and Critical Control Points (HACCP) standards, which are provided by foreign companies and generally accepted as the standard requirements for exported goods.

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The largest market for Vietnamese seafood continues to be the U.S., with American imports of Vietnamese seafood products valued at US$1.76 billion, a 17.9 percent increase on 2013. The US is followed by the EU, Japan, and Korea.  At the end of 2014, orders to these key markets slowed down; however, an increase in exports to ASEAN nations and China made up the shortfall.

By far the largest single contributor to the growth of Vietnam’s seafood exports has been shrimp, which saw a 28 percent (US$3.9 billion) increase over 2013. The majority of this increase came from the EU where Vietnamese shrimp sales grew 71.7 percent in 2014 according to VASEP. Sales of pangasius catfish, which is Vietnam’s second biggest export increased by 0.6 percent to US$1.77 billion.

The greatest strength of Vietnam’s seafood industry is its favorable natural conditions for marine fishing and aquaculture, including a long coastline and vast areas of fresh and brackish water. However, only 60 percent of the country’s processing factories were able to meet global standards of hygiene and seafood safety regulations in 2010, threatening to limit the potential of the market.

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While large increases in 2014 are encouraging for the country’s seafood industry, it is worthwhile to note that the main reasons for growth were external rather than because of the quality of the product itself. This could prevent growth from continuing in 2015. The biggest reason for the exports increase in 2014 was due to disease outbreaks in China and Thailand, which are two of the largest shrimp exporting countries.

Problems in Thailand were further compounded by the EU’s move to take away that country’s preferential tariffs provided under the Generalized System of Preferences (GSP). This led to an increase of 20 percent on the tariff for cooked and processed shrimp exported from Thailand to the EU. In addition, starting January 2015, the tariff on raw shrimp will rise from four percent to 12 percent. Vietnamese seafood has a tariff rate of 10.8 percent when importing into the EU.

For 2015, Vietnam’s Ministry of Agriculture and Rural Development has set a target of US$8.5 billion in export turnover for the seafood industry, while VASEP has set a target of US$8 billion. However, these targets could well prove to be overly optimistic and there are many obstacles standing in the way of reaching them. The biggest challenges will be due to the new safety standards that are expected to be implemented later this year.

The Vietnamese seafood industry, especially the shrimp industry, still does not use reliable farming processes to prevent diseases and ensure the quality of its products. Currently, farmers are using large amounts of antibiotics in order to save sick shrimp ponds. This could cause problems if export consignments contain antibiotic residue higher than what is permitted in the EU or U.S.

The new quality standards which will be imposed paradoxically make excessive use of antibiotics especially likely since many Vietnamese businesses may find the only way they can meet quality standards is to raise the amount of antibiotics in their products.

While production problems in other seafood producing countries contributed to strong growth in Vietnam in 2014, poor safety standards could well prevent further growth in the Vietnamese seafood industry in 2015 as competition from Thailand and China increases back to previous levels.   

To learn more about tariff rates in Vietnam, please contact one of the tax professionals at Dezan Shira & Associates.


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