Concerted efforts by all stakeholders have seen fisheries production and exports rise, Nguyen Huy Dien, deputy director of the Department of Aquaculture, tells Thoi bao Kinh te Viet Nam (Vietnam Economic Times).

* In 2013, Vietnamese aquaculture exports brought in a record of 7 billion USD. What were the factors behind this year's growth?

The high export turnover of the fishery sector in 2013 can be attributed to fish farmers and those participating in aquaculture production, processing and export.

Last year, export turnover stood at 6.8 billion USD. It is expected that this year the figure will be around 7 billion USD – up 10.6 percent from last year.

This year was also the first year we ranked 3rd in the world for shrimp exports with a massive 2.5 billion USD turnover - up 33 percent against the previous year.

This sector is vital and accounts for 44 percent of total export turnover for the whole industry.

The driving force for this success in shrimp exports was the popularity of white-leg shrimp (Litopenaeus vannamei) which jumped in terms of output and export value.

In terms of volume, Vietnam exported more than 6 million tonnes of marine-products, an increase of 2.1 percent against last year. The export of tiger prawns accounted for roughly 548,000 tonnes, an increase of 12.3 percent against the previous year, while the export of Tra fish (Pangasius) was around 1.15 million tonnes - down 7.6 percent from 2012.

* In your opinion, what were the factors leading to such success?

This success is the result of big efforts made by the whole industry, from fish farmers to processing workers and managers.

Under the direction of the Ministry of Agriculture and Rural Development, fish farmers in the Mekong Delta have quickly transitioned to producing white-leg shrimp after paying close attention to the difficulties of neighbouring countries in rearing this species and a clear demand from the market. As a result, the acreage utilised to produce white-leg shrimp in Vietnam has doubled in only a couple of years.

Another important factor I should mention is that this year, shrimp farmers were successful in treating common diseases affecting white-leg shrimp. Additionally and with active support from the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Vietnam won its law suit against the US's anti dumping duties on shrimp and the fight against trade barriers created by foreign importing companies.

* Produce quality remains a head ache for the industry. What has your department done to ensure adequate measures for quality?

We have made big efforts to alleviate quality concerns by controlling the inputs. Accordingly, my department has organised countless inspections to monitor the quality of parent shrimp imported from Thailand, Indonesia and Singapore and used for aqua-cultural production here.

In 2013, we selected 25-30 couples of high yield shrimps to raise as "breeders" for the next generations. At present, there are more than 1,700 breeding grounds nation-wide for tiger prawns and 583 breeding farms for white-leg shrimp.

Meanwhile, we also give specific directives to help tra fish farmers select high quality tra fish for their own production. We also set a target that by 2015, Vietnam will have high quality tra fish to provide to farmers in the Mekong Delta to phase out the old species.

Importantly, we have also encouraged fish farmers in all the 63 provinces and cities nation-wide to apply the Viet Gap standards. Of course, before introducing the Viet Gap criteria, we organised training courses to help farmers build the capacity to do so.

* What does 2014 hold for the fisheries industry?

It is projected that 2014 will be a tough year for the fisheries industry, as competitors in other countries will have recovered from their losses from last year.

In addition, we cannot rule out the possibility of the return of some shrimp epidemics if farmers don't keep their ponds up to scratch.

Though 2013 was a successful for the white-leg shrimp, we will keep asking farmers to continue to rear tiger prawns.

Vietnam has comparative advantages in breeding tiger prawns compared with our neighbours.

For the white-leg shrimp, we advise farmers not to increase their rearing acreage too much to avoid supply outstripping demand from the world market.

Thailand and China have recovered their losses last year, so we advise them to keep productivity of the white-leg shrimps to a maximum of 20 percent higher than that of 2013.

In 2014, my department will being making efforts to create better linkages in the value chain of tra fish production to improve the returns of those involved./.