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VN firms seek market for tra fish

Update: September, 26/2017 - 09:54
Many Vietnamese exporters are seeking new markets for tra (catfish) as they face high tariffs in the United States, long one of the biggest consumers of Vietnamese tra fish.— VNA/VNS Photo

HÀ NỘI — Many Vietnamese exporters are seeking new markets for tra (catfish) as they face high tariffs in the United States, long one of the biggest consumers of Vietnamese tra fish.

The US has imposed high anti-dumping tariffs on Vietnamese tra exporters since 2014. Earlier this year, it also imposed a new requirement that foreign exporters demonstrate their food safety control system is equivalent to American regulations, creating a new hurdle for Vietnamese companies. Although prices in the US market are high and stable, the difficulties are spurring Vietnamese tra companies to seek new customers in Mexico, Canada and China.

According to the Vietnam Association of Seafood Exporters and Producers (VASEP), there are about 14 tra fish enterprises exporting to the US market. However, due to the high anti-dumping tax, only three companies -- Vĩnh Hoàn Corporation, Hùng Vương JSC and Biển Đông Seafood Company Ltd -- are significant exporters to this market, while the remaining 11 export small quantities.

As the role of the US as an importer of tra declines, Vietnamese companies are working to increase demand for tra internationally. In the long run, the businesses say they need to develop branding and improve the image of tra fish in the world market.

About three years ago, Trường Giang Fisheries Joint Stock Company in the southern province of Đồng Tháp tried to export some containers of catfish to the US, but the high anti-dumping tax made the effort unprofitable. The company has no intention to try to export tra fish to the US again. Instead it is seeking other markets.

Hàng Văn, Deputy Director of Trường Giang Company, said that in the past few years, when the US imposed a high anti-dumping duty, many businesses have moved their exports to other markets.

“Notably, in South Asia, Pakistan and India are quite potential markets for Vietnamese catfish,” Văn said. “Pakistan currently accounts for about 10 per cent of the company’s exports.”

According to Văn, tra exporters could focus on promoting exports to Indian market, the world’s second-largest in terms of population. The Indian consumers have initially accepted tra fish products.

"However, the import tax of tra fish in India is still too high, up to 70 – 80 per cent, so that importers do not dare to import much,” said Văn. “In the coming time, if the two governments enhance trade co-operation and reduce import taxes, Việt Nam’s tra consumption market will be very large.”

Sông Tiền Seafood JSC and Ngọc Xuân Seafood JSC in the southern province of Tiền Giang are also seeking ways to export their products to non-US markets, including the EU, China and Middle East.

Nguyễn Thị Ánh, the head of both businesses mentioned above, said her companies this year accessed a number of new markets, such as the Middle East, South America and China.

“As for the EU market, it has been still the strategic market of businesses for many years, accounting for about 60 – 70 per cent of the total exports,” said Ánh. “To keep the stable volume of customers in this market, the company has focused on investment, ensuring product quality from raw materials to processing.”

Therefore, although the company does not export tra fish to the US, its export turnover is stable and growing, Ánh added.

Insiders also said that Vĩnh Hoàn—one of the three leading Vietnamese companies exporting tra fish to the US—are focusing on exploiting newly-emerged markets.

Nguyễn Ngô Vi Tâm, General Director of Vĩnh Hoàn Corporation, said the company had recently developed new markets. It is especially focusing on value-added products.

Tâm said the company had installed a production line of grilled tra fish products marinated in teriyaki, a Japanese cooking technique, for export to Japan. After years of development efforts, Japanese consumers have started accepting freshwater fish products.

“If businesses focus on product quality control, this will be a potential market for Việt Nam’s tra industry in Asia, just after China,” said Tâm.

Honorary President of VASEP Nguyễn Thị Hồng Minh said there were still many opportunities to develop the tra fish industry and change the worldview of Vietnamese tra fish. First of all, he said, Việt Nam needs a national-level tra fish product.

Minh proposed to make a line of tra fish fillet products that would be based on a common standard system. Meanwhile, the processing enterprises and exporters would jointly develop markets and branding.

"The main product must be fillet because it accounts for 80 per cent of Việt Nam’s export of tra fish. In addition, relevant agencies must also support the development of this product line, which needs to have logos and a brand name as well,” said Minh. — VNS

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