Director general of the Directorate of Fisheries Trần Đình Luân
In 2021, the fishery sector aims to maintain a stable fishery production and business, including a reduction in fishing volume, an increase of farming output, and implementation of solutions increasing the value of seafood products. It also sets a target of seafood export turnover at about US$8.6 billion, up 2.6 per cent compared to 2020. Director general of the Directorate of Fisheries Trần Đình Luân spoke to local media about this issue.
What were the achievements of the fisheries sector in 2020?
In 2020, the export activities were interrupted due to the suspension of marine transport and the closure of border gates in many countries because of the pandemic. A series of fast food shops in the main importing countries for Vietnamese seafood were also closed and some customers canceled orders or delayed the delivery time.
The demand for seafood products of high economic value such as cold-water fish, lobsters, and snails decreased because these products were mainly for export and consumption in restaurants.
At the end of the year, the weather at sea was not good for fishing activities. Prolonged droughts and saltwater intrusion in the Mekong Delta brought difficulties for farmers.
Meanwhile, the fishery sector is also facing competition from other countries such as India and Ecuador which have intensified farming of raw shrimp to supply to the world market. China has expanded the farming area of tra fish to supply for the domestic market and even for export, creating competitiveness with Vietnamese pangasius.
Technical barriers of some importing countries affect seafood production, including the European Commission (EC)’s “yellow card” warning against illegal, unreported and unregulated (IUU) fishing in Việt Nam.
However, the fisheries sector, together with localities, farmers, businesses and associations tried to maintain the growth of seafood production in 2020.
Last year, the total seafood output reached 8.4 million tonnes, an increase of 1.8 per cent compared to 2019, including catching volume at 3.85 million tonnes, up 2.1 per cent, and farming volume at 4.56 million tonnes, up 1.5 per cent. The sector’s seafood export turnover was estimated at US$8.4 billion.
The growth was not high but it was a success of the sector last year in the context of having many difficulties in production and business due to the COVID-19.
How did efforts of businesses, support from ministries and sectors, and especially the EU-Vietnam Free Trade Agreement (EVFTA) support export growth in 2020?
The Directorate of Fisheries strengthened inspection and management of seafood production and business to help farmers and export processing enterprises stabilise their work.
With the new market situation and change of market segments due to the pandemic, farmers had to restructure the type of seafood they farmed.
The Directorate of Fisheries organised conferences to discuss with businesses and people many issues that needed changing, including the size of fish and diversification of seafood products.
Meanwhile, processing enterprises have also built production chains with farmers to trace the origin of seafood products and have plans for the production and harvest of fish.
They also diversified processed seafood products to meet demand in the context of social distancing due to COVID-19.
The cohesion between businesses, farmers and State agencies helped the industry reach the total export value of $8.4 billion in 2020.
For the EVFTA, the Ministry of Agriculture and Rural Development directed agencies, including the Directorate of Fisheries, to assist farmers and businesses in preparation of the conditions to meet the EU market’s requirements.
After EVFTA came into effect in August 2020, shrimp, pangasius and tuna exports to the EU increased in September, October and November. That was dynamic for the growth of total seafood export value in the three months to reach two digits. That helped the total seafood export turnover to recover in 2020.
However, the fishery sector is always aware that free trade agreements, including EVFTA, also brings many challenges. Therefore, the industry has asked relevant agencies to carefully study the provisions of free trade agreements to take full advantage of those agreements.
What are the challenges and solutions for the sector to reach targets in 2021?
The good news is the COVID-19 vaccines are now available in the world, so we expect that when the vaccine stops the pandemic, the economic recovery will be faster.
The directorate will continue to work with localities, businesses to organise production chains and develop ready food for the customers, especially households.
In addition, the industry plans to develop marine aquaculture and exploit advantages in the sea due to the huge demand for sea fish. The directorate will stabilise aquaculture areas and apply science and technology to improve productivity, quality and traceability. The use of technology will also reduce the environmental impact of the production and processing of aquatic products.
The State will have policies encouraging businesses to develop processed seafood products with high value to increase market share home and abroad.
In addition, to develop the production chain of the seafood industry, it needs to promote processing of by-products from fish processing at factories, including skin, bones and head. The fishery industry wants to process value-added products for itself and also for the food and pharmaceutical industries. VNS