Seafood processors fight trade barriers
HCM CITY — The seafood industry should soon work with trade authorities to remove raw seafood for processing from the list of goods requiring an automatic import licence, Deputy Minister of Industry and Trade Nguyen Thanh Bien has said.
|Farmers harvest tra fish in the southern province of Hau Giang. — VNA/VNS Photo Duy Khuong
Speaking at the annual meeting of the Viet Nam Association of Seafood Producers and Exporters (VASEP) in HCM City yesterday, he said there had been complaints from seafood processing companies about numerous difficulties in importing raw seafood for re-export.
Truong Dinh Hoe, VASEP general secretary, said Viet Nam imported seafood worth US$541 million from 74 countries and territories last year.
Around 80 per cent of it was for processing for re-export, the rest was for breeding and local consumption, he said.
With local supply being unstable for long now, importing seafood to process for export has been vital for companies to maintain production and sustain jobs, according to the report.
Despite the EU's debt problems and other difficulties, the seafood industry should continue to consider it as a key export market, Hoe said.
But they should also focus more on emerging markets in Asia, especially ASEAN members, due to their high demand for seafood products, particularly tra fish products, he said.
The association would draft programmes to boost exports of shrimp and tra fish products to South Korea and South America, he said.
Global seafood demand was expected to recover at the end of the year, he said, adding that along with policy support and companies' efforts to restructure, this would enable the seafood industry to meet the year's export target of $6.5 billion.
Viet Nam Development Bank (VDB) has agreed in principle to support tra fish farmers, processors and exporters facing a hard time, according to the VASEP.
Last week, the bank sent a document to Prime Minister Nguyen Tan Dung requesting him to approve three proposals to bail out the industry under Government Resolution No 13/NQ-CP. The proposals, involving more than $330 million in loans, were composed by the bank and VASEP.
VASEP said the tra fish industry had a serious shortage of capital and raw materials. Production was stagnant.
It added that if there were no timely solutions, about 20-30 per cent of producers would go bankrupt this year, affecting any future development.
While waiting for the Prime Minister's approval on policies to deal with investment and export credit risks, the document asked the bank to be allowed to extend loans to seafood and tra fish exporters. The debt would be scheduled for payment within two years.
VDB said it would take responsibility for co-ordinating with VASEP to review and process each specific case. This could mean rescheduling debts or continuing to offer loans to maintain production, exports and stable employment.
Next, while waiting for export credit regulations to be issued under Decree No 75/2011/ND-CP, the bank asked to be allowed to help processors get loans to buy fish from farmers.
Farmers would also be allowed to access loans to develop fish breeding areas and repay them from their export contracts.
Finally, to save large seafood exporters grinding to a halt, the two organisations proposed that: "Besides the above solutions, relevant State bodies and VASEP will work out solutions to enable them to restructure the organisation, settle financial problems, and improve productionmanagement".
In May, VASEP asked the bank to offer emergency support to the tra fish industry. According to VASEP, the processors need a total capital estimated at VND5 trillion (US$238 million) to buy 200,000 tonnes of tra fish.
The association said the companies already had export contracts and wanted the bank to help them purchase the raw product with four-month loans at preferential interest rates below 10 per cent per year.
In addition, companies that breed tra fish require a combined VND2 trillion ($95.2 million) to be able to annually supply 100,000 tonnes of fish. — VNS