Hanoi (VNA) - The Food Safety and Inspection Service (FSIS) under the US Department of Agriculture (USDA) has recognised Vietnam as a country eligible to export Siluriformes fish (catfish, including tra fish) and fish products to the US.

The US Office of the Federal Register announced the FSIS’s legal notice on the determination on October 31.

Good news for Vietnamese cat fish exporters hinh anh 1Tra fish processed for exports (Photo: VNA)

Accordingly, the FSIS has determined that Vietnam’s Siluriformes fish inspection system is equivalent to the system that the US has established under the Federal Meat Inspection Act and its implementing regulations. The FSIS is amending the Siluriformes fish inspection regulations to list Vietnam as a country eligible to export Siluriformes fish and fish products to the US.

Under this final rule, only raw Siluriformes fish and fish products produced in certified Vietnamese establishments are eligible for export to the US market.

Aside from Vietnamese authorities’ certification, Siluriformes fish products exported from Vietnam will continue to be subject to re-inspection by the FSIS at US points of entry for transportation damage, product and container defects, labeling, proper certification, general condition, and accurate count.

In addition, the FSIS will continue to conduct other types of re-inspection activities, such as taking product samples for laboratory analysis to detect drug and chemical residues and pathogens, as well as to identify product species and composition. Products that pass re-inspection will be stamped with the official mark of inspection and allowed to enter the US.

If they do not meet US requirements, they will be denied entry and within 45 days they must be exported to the country of origin, destroyed, or converted to animal food, depending on the violation.

Good news for Vietnamese cat fish exporters hinh anh 2Vietnam has completed its catfish inspection system.(Photo: VNA)

From 2014 to 2018, 91.2 percent of total Siluriformes fish imports to the US were from Vietnam, according to the FSIS.

Vietnamese Deputy Minister of Agriculture and Rural Development Phung Duc Tien described the determination by the USDA as a positive result as it has recognised Vietnam’s efforts to fine-tune and implement its legal system for more than three years. This rule, together with positive signs in the market and rising demand for aquatic products at the end of the year, will create chances for Vietnam to boost aquatic product exports.

Nguyen Nhu Tiep, Director of the ministry’s National Agro-Forestry-Fisheries Quality Assurance Department, also believed that the US’s recognition is an important driving force for the sector to develop sustainably in the time ahead.

The move will support exports to not only the US but also other markets since it proves that Vietnam’s capacity for quality and food safety control in tra fish production chains has met one of the strictest requirements in the world, he added.

As required by the 2014 Farm Bill, the USDA launched an inspection programme for fish under the order Siluriformes in March 2016. This programme required that to continue exporting catfish, mostly tra fish, to the US, Vietnam had to build and organise its inspection system equivalent to the US’s in terms of three groups of criteria, namely the legal system on food quality and safety control; the law enforcement capacity of authorised agencies; and conditions for ensuring food safety and hygiene during the whole process from fry production, farming, transportation, process to export to the US.

In May 2018, an FSIS inspection team made a fact-finding trip to Vietnam and recognised that Vietnam’s inspection system in catfish production, processing and export completely meets the US’s regulations.

The draft rule was unveiled in September 2018 to collect public opinions and won a majority of support. The USDA announced the final rule on October 31.

According to the MARD’s statistics, Vietnam has yearly production of 1.3 million tonnes of pangasius; India, 650,000 tonnes; Bangladesh, 450,000 tonnes; Indonesia, 110,000 tonnes; and China, 10,000 tonnes.

Vietnam is expected to rake in 2.3 billion USD from tra fish exports this year, according to the Directorate of Fisheries under the Ministry of Agriculture and Rural Development.

Although tra fish products of India, China and Bangladesh account for a small market share, they are increasing production to better competitive capacity. To this end, the Vietnamese tra fish sector should channel more focus on cultivation and processing stages.

Minister of Agriculture and Rural Development particularly laid stress on the necessity to promote the efficiency of value chain to improve value of the local tra fish.

“It is crucial to improve linkages in production, consumption and application of advanced technologies, as well as take advantage of the US’s recognition of the Vietnam’s Siluriformes fish inspection system so as to expand export markets”, he said.

Last year, Vietnam exported 550 million USD worth of pangasius to the US, the country’s second largest market./.