Illustrative image (Source: fistenet.gov.vn)

HCM City (VNA) – Vietnam's tuna exports to China have risen sharply this year but exports to traditional markets like the US, EU and Japan have fallen, according to the industry association.

The Vietnam Association of Seafood Exporters and Producers (Vasep) said tuna exports in the first quarter fell by 5.5 percent year-on-year to 98.5 million USD.

Shipments to the US were 4.4 percent down to 36 million USD. Exports of fillet and tenderloin went up by 34 percent while those of other products plummeted.

Exports to the EU and Japan dropped by 14.3 percent and 6 percent to 24.2 million USD and 3.8 million USD.

Vietnam exported to 85 countries and territories, though the US, EU, ASEAN, China, Israel, Japan, Mexico, and Canada accounted for nearly 88 percent.

Vasep attributed the fall in exports to key traditional markets to the scarcity of the fish, complex regulations on the import of natural tuna in those countries, and food safety, origin and packaging requirements.

Therefore, only companies that have their own fishing vessels or work closely with fishermen can maintain exports to these fastidious markets, it said.

Chinese boost

According to Vietnam Customs, tuna exports to China were worth nearly 7 million USD, a year-on-year increase of nearly 253 percent.

Appearing among the top 10 tuna buyers from Vietnam since last year, China is a promising market that has replaced Japan in fourth place, Vasep said.

This year it has increased imports of tuna fillet from Vietnam by 372 percent to nearly 1.4 million USD. But its import of canned tuna fell 35 percent to 383,000 USD.

According to the International Trade Centre, in recent years, while China's imports of processed/canned tuna have been on a downward trend, imports of fresh/live/frozen tuna have risen.

A jump in Vietnam's tuna exports to China was driven by difficulties in exporting to major markets, which forced Vietnamese enterprises to eye the new, promising market, the association said.

Besides, demand for tuna in China and for re-export to Europe by Chinese companies also rose, it added.

But while Vasep is sanguine about this market, many exporters are wary saying there are implicit risks in terms of prices, payment methods and quality requirements.

ASEAN has also emerged as a promising market, with exports rising by 19.5 percent in the first quarter. Thailand alone accounted for nearly 72 percent of the shipments.

The association said besides boosting exports to new markets like China and ASEAN, exporters must also work to keep their traditional markets.

They should strengthen collaboration with fishermen to ensure stable supply of the fish, it said, adding they should do business only with those using modern technologies and comply with international fishing regulations to ensure their products are accepted in choosy markets.-VNA