A forum was held in Ho Chi Minh City on August 6 to seek to earn a sustainable niche for Vietnam’s pangasius (tra) fish in the European Union now that the shipments of such product to the market have plunged.

According to Secretary-General of the Vietnam Association of Seafood Exporters and Producers (VASEP) Truong Dinh Hoe, the fish has brought home more than 1.8 billion USD on a yearly basis from 150 countries and territories worldwide, 21 percent of which came from the EU.

Since 2010, tra fish consumption in the EU has, however, faced a downward trend. Key importers such as Spain, the Netherlands, and Germany reduced their imports by 14,300 tonnes averagely over the past three years. In this year’s January-June, tra fish exports encountered a year-on-year decline of 9 percent.

Deputy head of the Import-Export Department under the Ministry of Trade and Industry Duong Phuong Thao said Vietnamese businesses have missed many orders from the market due to their small-scale operation, poor productivity, and financial shortages. Additionally, businesses still remain passive and depend largely on their EU partners, she added.

Despite the fact, the VASEP Secretary-General was optimistic about the possibility of bringing more locally-produced tra fish products to the EU which imports up to 65 percent of seafood since this type of fish is favoured by the market. The UN Food and Agriculture Organisation estimated that an average aquatic consumption in European countries will increase to 24 from 22 kg per year.

Experts have also agreed that local breeders, processors and exporters are making all-out efforts to meet the stricter requirements, including food safety and environmental responsibility, from the EU and other markets around the world.

The Government has recently issued Decree 36/2014/ND-CP, requiring breeders, processors, and exporters of tra fish to meet Vietnam Good Agricultural Practice (VietGap) standards or other international ones such as GlobalGAP and Aquaculture Stewardship Council (ASC) in a move to retain their exports in such markets as the EU and the US .

The Mekong Delta, in particular, is carrying out an EU-funded project on building a sustainable tra fish supply chain in Vietnam, which aims to increase the competitiveness of the product in the global market.

According to the Directorate of Fisheries, as of July this year, the region farmed nearly 4,000 ha of tra fish, a yearly increase of 9.9 percent, harvesting about 594,000 tonnes, up 0.3 percent.-VNA