Recent slump in lobster exports to China raises need for switch to official export

October 06, 2023 - 09:33
Vasep said that lobster was being exported to China mainly via unofficial channels, which posed many risks, including price fluctuations and changes in import policies.
A lobster farming model in Cam Ranh City of the southcentral coastal province of Khánh Hòa. — VNA/VNS Photo Đặng Tuấn

HÀ NỘI — The recent significant slump in lobster exports to China has highlighted an urgent need for Việt Nam to switch to official export channels to ensure stability, the Việt Nam Association of Seafood Exporters and Producers (Vasep) said.

The association’s updates showed that Việt Nam’s lobster exports to China dropped by 42 per cent from January to August compared to the same period last year, amounting to US$76 million.

According to Chinese customs’ statistics, China imported more than 32,350 tonnes of lobster in the first seven months of this year, worth more than $962 million. This represents an increase of 19 per cent in volume and 1 per cent in value compared to the same period last year.

Although China remains the largest lobster export market for Việt Nam, Việt Nam holds a modest share of just around 1 per cent in the Chinese lobster market, ranking 14th after major suppliers such as Canada, the US, New Zealand, Cuba, India, Brazil, and Mexico.

After decreasing by 80 per cent to $31 million in 2021 due to the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic, Việt Nam’s lobster exports to China were impressive in 2022, with an export revenue of $257 million, 8.3 times higher than in 2021, driven by improved demand post the pandemic.

Vasep stated that lobsters are primarily exported to China via unofficial channels, which come with many risks, including price fluctuations and changes in import policy.

Moreover, exporting via unofficial channels is becoming increasingly challenging as China is progressively tightening imports of agro-forestry-fishery products.

Promotion of the official export of lobster to China is essential, Vasep emphasised.

The first critical step to switch to official exports is to establish a value chain and develop a traceability system for lobsters, the association noted.

Vasep suggested that support should be provided to parties involved in establishing a lobster value chain, applying science and technology in aquaculture, and developing raw material areas.

Under the project for lobster farming and export by 2025, the Ministry of Agriculture and Rural Development aims to achieve an output of 3,000 tonnes per year with an export value of $200 million. Lobsters are primarily farmed in Phú Yên, Khánh Hoà, and Kiên Giang.

Recently, the Móng Cái International Border Gate’s Management Board in Quảng Ninh Province reported that China had increased its inspection frequency for fresh fishery products from September 20. This heightened scrutiny caused tonnes of lobsters to die while awaiting customs clearance procedures, leading to a forced sale at approximately VNĐ400,000 per kg, a third of the market price.

In response, the National Agro-Forestry-Fisheries Quality Assurance Department sent a document to the Chinese authorities requesting efforts to facilitate the export of Vietnamese seafood products.

The department noted that, to date, lobster exports via Móng Cái have returned to normal, with around 30-50 tonnes of lobster exported to China daily. — VNS