On the morning of February 7 in Cần Thơ city, the Ministry of Agriculture and Rural Development held a meeting to prepare for the second visit of the USDA Food safety and Inspection service (FSIS) checking Vietnamese pangasius. The inspection will run from March 02 to 13, 2020.
In his speech at the meeting, Deputy General Director of NAFIQAD Ngô Hồng Phong said that their first visit in May 2018 covered the processing factories and this time might be farming. “The FSIS may review the document related to additives which help put on weight of pangasius following their suspicions that the actual weight gain might be higher than what is printed on the boxes. Besides, the inspection in 2018 did not cover the pangasius farming and medicine usage of the farms”, said Phong.
The participants at the meeting agreed that local authorities and companies would actively check and keep following regulations to assure food safety standards. In May 2018, FSIS required Vietnam’s processing companies and exporters to assure the sanitation in factories, install enough equipment and update the suitable quality management programs. These must be improved this time. Companies with crates which were warned by FSIS are requested to prepare full evidentiary document explaining reasons and reporting results and countermeasures.
FSIS will assess Vietnam’s safety control system applied on pangasius exported to the US and make sure the US’s standards are met. The inspection program given by the USDA in March 2016 is to fulfill the Farm Bill 2014 regulating that catfish from countries (Vietnam’s pangasius) going into the US must follow the food safety control system which is similar to the US’s. This regulation requires a strict monitoring system of baby fish production, farming, transport, preliminary treatment, production and export.
After the first inspection, the USDA officially issued a decision on 31 October 2019 recognizing the food safety system applied by Vietnam on pangasius going into the US. However, on the first inspection, FSIS pointed out some flaws which must be improved and this time they will check how Vietnam improved them and remained the control system.
In the meeting, General Director of the Directorate of Fisheries Trần Đình Luân said that Vietnam took in $2.01 billion from pangasius exports in 2019, down 11.4% from the previous year. At present, the pangasius sector was setting up a good production chain with 4.860 growing ponds being granted identification numbers, all 6,600 hectares of farming areas being controlled food safety and 3,000 hectares being granted VietGAP, GlobalGAP, BAP and ASC certificates. However, some flaws must be improved.
Deputy Minister of Agriculture and Rural Development Phùng Đức Tiến chaired the meeting and emphasized that the pangasius sector was facing challenges early 2020 in the Chinese market, hence, quality must be enhanced to retain loyal customers and penetrate into other markets, especially the US. The ministry of Agriculture and Rural Development was preparing with FSIS delegates to resolve difficulties and requiring local authorities, companies and pangasius farmers to make great efforts to satisfy the market’s requirements.