Illustrative image (Source: VNA)
According to VASEP, the EU has been an important importer of Vietnamese tra fish over the past two decades, ranking first from 2004 – 2014.
In 2008, tra fish became popular in France, Spain and Italy thanks to its low price compared to other indigenous white-flesh fishes.
However since 2015, Vietnam’s tra fish exports have declined, ranking third behind China and the US. In the early months this year, the country even placed behind ASEAN.
Due to the great early success of tra fish in the EU, media outlets in the region painted a distorted picture to smear and defame it, which has hurt consumption and demand.
In early 2017, the Spanish media published distorted allegations about Vietnamese tra fish farming, processing and consumption. Later, many Spanish supermarkets stopped selling tra fish, driving down export revenue.
Several Romanian newspapers published incorrect information about Vietnamese tra fish, even warning people not to eat it in restaurants and suggesting a boycott of tra fish and restaurants offering it.
Following accusations about tra fish’s impact on health, the Netherlands’s Wageningen University conducted a study to determine the safety of eating tra fish and concluded that there was no evidence to support the accusations.
Prof. Simon Bush, an expert on environment policy research from the university, described such accusations as ungrounded, affirming that tra fish has a very limited food safety risk and environmental impact.
Tra fish being fairly new in the EU and quickly grabbing a large market share may have led to the attacks, he said.
Hoe said VASEP signed a contract with Globally Cool company to launch a tra fish marketing campaign in Spain from March – December 2017. It also launched the website http://youreverydayfish.com, a multilingual platform to introduce Vietnamese tra fish and respond to false and negative information in English, German, Italian, Spanish and Dutch languages.
Some domestic firms aim to boost exports by developing new products, increasing premium and added-value products and improving quality. Since late 2017, limited supply of tra fish has also pushed prices up considerably.
Several kinds of white-flesh fish have had poor harvests in recent months so tra fish has been chosen as an alternative product, he added.
Statistics from the General Department of Customs showed tra fish exports to the EU surpassed US$139 million in the first seven months of this year, up 16.5% annually. Several markets posted strong growth such as the Netherlands (43%) and Italy (83%).
The EU is now the third largest importer of Vietnamese tra fish, accounting for an 11.6% market share, behind China and the US.
Experts suggested that the sector strengthen marketing overseas and tra fish exports as a premium and added-value product to achieve sustainable growth.