Exports of Mekong Delta shark catfish to the US and China, two of the biggest buyers of the products, have dropped compared to the figure last year.
According to seafood exporters in the Mekong Delta, shark catfish exports have been erratic, and the demand in big markets such as China and the US has fallen. Exports to mainland China and Hong Kong in March were worth US$39.5 million, 12.9 per cent lower than last year, while exports to the US saw a 44 per cent drop.
Doãn Tới, general director of the Nam Việt Corporation (which specialises in exporting seafood), told Sài Gòn Giải Phóng (Saigon Liberated) newspaper that shark catfish exports were worth around $1 billion to China and the US last year. Despite the high figure, both markets can be volatile due to changing policies and tariffs, so more export destinations are preferable to only one or two markets, he said.
Tới said that exporters should focus on the EU as the number of shark catfish exports has risen after a period of low exports. Around $72 million worth of fish were exported in February and March, 42 per cent higher than last year.
Exports to ASEAN in the first quarter of the year also increased by 18 per cent, while Japan’s imports of the product were also rising, making the country among the top 10 importers this year.
Foreign markets are demanding tougher technical specifications to ensure food safety and quality, such as China restricting cross-border imports of agricultural products and seafood, according to the Agriculture, Forestry and Aquaculture Product Quality Management Department.
In addition, the EU restricts imports from Việt Nam if banned substances are detected in Vietnamese shipments. Quality standards, improved linkages between farmers and businesses, use of materials for other processed products, and more promotions are all needed, according to experts.
An Giang and Đồng Tháp provinces are two of the Mekong Delta’s leaders in shark catfish farming, processing and exporting.
According to An Giang People’s Committee, its farming areas for fish amount to 1,300-1,400 hectares, with output of 380,000-400,000 tonnes. The industry targets exports of around $2.4 billion this year.