Technical barriers make seafood exporters afflicted

VietNamNet Bridge – No perfect solution has been found to reduce the number of refused seafood exports. Meanwhile, enterprises have to spend more money for temporary solutions.

Vietnam, seafood exports, VASEP, technical barriers, Japan, markets

Refused consignments on the rise

According to the Industry and Trade Department of Ca Mau, one of the biggest seafood export localities, which gathers the biggest guys in the seafood industry namely Minh Phu and Phu Cuong, five seafood companies have their 159 tons of exports refused by May 2013, worth $3.65 million tons.

The refused consignments, mostly frozen processed shrimp, were refused because they contained the antibiotic residues higher than the levels allowed by the import countries.

Nafiquad, the agency in charge of controlling the farm, forestry and seafood product quality, has reported that the Japanese agencies in May discovered Ethoxyquin and Trifluralin residues higher than the allowed levels in the exports of 3 more Vietnamese enterprises.

After the warnings were given by the import countries in the first two months of the year, the situation got improved in March and April (no refusal in March and only one case in April). However, things seemed to go worse in May.

Japan is Vietnam’s shrimp biggest importer. In 2012, the country installed the Ethoxyquin barrier after it installed the Trifluralin barrier. Ethoxyquin is an antioxidant existing in the shrimp feed, while Trifluralin is a substance to clear seaweed.

The seafood export turnover to Japan by mid-May 2013 had been $353 million, a 2.5 percent decrease in comparison with the same period of the last year.

According to Nguyen Nhu Tiep of Nafiqad, in May 2013, Japan officially removed the Trifluralin examination on the 100 percent of the imports from Vietnam after three years of applying the technical barrier.

The government of Vietnam has requested Japan to consider removing the Ethoxyquin examination on the seafood imports from Vietnam as well.

Tiep said the Japanese competent agencies have asked Vietnam to provide reports and prove that it now applies necessary measures to control the indexes for food safety better. “If they find it reasonable, they would remove the strict examination mechanism,” he said.

In fact, the “strict examination” means there’s no opportunity for Vietnamese enterprises to export products to Japan, because, as said by an exporter in Soc Trang province, “once they (the agencies of the import countries) examine the imports, all the products will have problems.”

High expenses cannot help

Vietnamese enterprises have been doing everything they can to minimize the risks and reduce the number of refused consignments. They have to spend more money to control the antibiotic residues, preservatives, the input materials. Especially, they have to hire more workers to harshly examine the exports before shipping. However, risks still exist.

Phan Thanh Chien, General Director of the Hai Viet JSC, a seafood processor and exporter in Vung Tau City, said he has to spend tens of billions of dong a year just on the works to minimize the risks. This included the VND3 billion paid to Nafiqad’s examination in 2012 and VND6 billion to test antibiotic residues itself.

However, the company still has refused exports. Chien admitted that the company cannot keep an eye to all phases of the aquaculture, and that the chemicals might exist in the input materials provided by farmers.


Vietnam, seafood exports, VASEP, technical barriers, Japan, markets