According to the Vietnam Association of Seafood Exporters and Processors (VASEP), the past 10 months have seen seafood export earnings hit US$5 billion, representing a year-on-year increase of 1.7 percent.
In the context of the shrinking global market, the US$6.5 billion target is still a long way off, and VASEP has forecast that total export earnings could only amount to US$6.2 billion, or a one percent increase on 2011.
Shrimp exports will generate US$2.2 billion of the total expected earnings, down 8.3 percent compared to 2011, Tra fish exports will fetch USS1.8 billion, or 2011’s equivalent, and other aquatic product exports US$2.2 billion, up 19 percent on the previous year.
The Ministry of Industry and Trade has expressed concerns about sharp drops in shrimp and Tra fish exports, two of the sector’s major aquatic products, over the third quarter of this year.
In three months shrimp exports collected a little more than US$610 million, down 15 percent compared to the same period last year, while Tra fish exports fetched US$438 million, down 10 percent.
Local seafood processors have difficulties meeting their export targets because of a lack of capital and materials, increasing input costs, shrinking markets, and low export prices.
They attribute reductions in export earnings to instability in Vietnam’s traditional markets like the European Union, Japan, and the US. They also face regulatory barriers on food hygiene and safety recently introduced by importers.
Although Vietnam is the world’s largest Tra fish breeder and exporter, Thailand’s huge investments in Tra fish farming could spark fierce competition and add to the sector’s challenges.
Nguyen Van Dao, director of Go Dang JSC, says local processors have so far received fewer orders from European importers for Christmas and New Year celebrations than previous patterns suggest.
“Tra fish fillets are currently shipped to Europe at US$2.6-2.8 per kilogram on average. It’s clear that farmers and businesses do not get any profit from such low export prices,” says Dao.
The Mekong Delta province of Ca Mau, which has the country’s largest shrimp faming acreage and export volume, is taking additional measures to meet this year’s target.
The province is supporting its businesses in their search for partners, outlets, and capital as a means of creating conditions most conducive to export success. It aims to earn US$1 billion from seafood exports this year.
An Giang, another Mekong Delta locality, defines seafood processing as one of its key industries, and any fluctuations in seafood exports badly affect provincial economic growth. It vows to assist businesses to meet the export target over the remaining two months this year.
The crux of the matter is that the fishery sector should restructure its production by reducing quantity and increasing quality and efficiency. Solutions should be guided by the principles of sustainable development.
More needs to be done if export earnings are to be raised to US$7.5 billion by 2015 and US$10 billion by 2020. The sector must advance the prestige of its brand names, maintain its traditional markets in the US, EU and Japan, and boost exports to potential markets like Eastern Europe, the Middle East, Africa, South America, China and the Republic of Korea.