Vietnam’s seafood sector needs to work to meet strict food safety requirements in the EU to penetrate the potential market more substantially, asserted experts.

Although the volume of Vietnamese seafood exported to the EU market has been rising, food safety violations have also increased, they noted at a conference on harmonising food safety and quarantine regulations of Vietnam and the EU in Ho Chi Minh City on June 4.

According to Claudio Dordi, technical assistance Team Leader at the European Trade Policy and Investment Support Project (EU-MUTRAP) in Vietnam, Vietnamese seafood is likely to become more competitive in the EU market as a free trade agreement between Vietnam and the union is expected to be signed soon, allowing Vietnamese exporters to enjoy remarkable tax reductions.

However, the technical standards in the market will remain unchanged, he said, suggesting that Vietnamese businesses should stay active in familiarising themselves with the regulations.

Vietnamese seafood has been listed among the top products in the EU, however, the number of warned and returned seafood batches have risen. In 2012, 64 seafood products were returned, a sharp rise from 2002’s figure of 26. From 2010 to May this year, 183 seafood batches received warning, with 41 batches in last year alone.

According to Le Thanh Hoa, Vice Director of the Vietnam Sanitary and Phytosanitary Notification Authority and Enquiry Point (SPS Vietnam), most batches subject to warning failed to meet physical, chemical or biological standards.

EU countries apply a common GlobalGAP (good agriculture practice) standard on imported products, while Vietnamese seafood still produces at the lower VietGAP standard, he noted.

Meanwhile, Nguyen Tu Cuong, Head of the Seafood Development Committee at the Vietnam Fisheries Association, said there are a series of strict requirements from EU countries, including those on materials, chemical compositions and labels.

He advised businesses to change their production and business habits to improve market credit while enhancing added value to their products.

Dordi also suggested Vietnamese seafood exporters pay more attention to labelling with a view to raising added value and promoting Vietnam’s seafood trademark.

According to the Ministry of Agriculture and Rural Development, Vietnam’s standards are lower than those of the EU; building a new standard system closer to that of the EU would enhance trade collaboration with the EU.

After the conference, EU-MUTRAP experts are scheduled to draft a report detailing EU SPS policies and analysing shortages in Vietnam’s regulations to make recommendations on necessary adjustments in the future.-VNA