Vietnam’s tuna exports have earned 154 million USD so far this year, a year-on-year increase of 19 percent, and the highest growth among seafood exports. However, its growth also causes concerns – a drop in tuna quality has resulted in a sharp fall in price.

According to the Vietnam Association of Seafood Exporters and Producers, the US has so far this year imported 57 million USD worth of Vietnamese tuna, an increase of 3 percent from the same period last year. It is followed by the European Union with 32 million USD (a rise of 37 percent) and ASEAN with 9.4 million USD (an 81 percent increase).

Nevertheless, despite the high output of tuna in the first months of 2013, the quality of tuna is being threatened by an increasing number of fishermen using high pressure lamps to reduce costs and increase productivity. This has reduced quality and disqualifies the product for export, say experts.

As a result, tuna prices have seen a continuous decline over the past months. In early March, prices in central coastal Khanh Hoa province ranged from 60,000 VND to 65,000 VND (3 USD) per kilo, now they reach only 50,000 VND to 55,000 VND (2.5 USD).

Meanwhile, increases in fuel price, ice and other necessities raise fishing costs.

Nguyen Van Giang, a ship owner of ship in Khanh Hoa province, said the cost of a 30-day fishing trip used to be 150 million VND (7,200 USD). At present, it costs an extra 20 million VND. After deducting expenses, many make a loss.

Low incomes have made many fishermen quit and do other jobs. Now, a large number of ships in central provinces like Phu Yen and Binh Dinh cannot go fishing due to a lack of labour.

Chairman of the Vietnam Tuna Association Vu Dinh Dap forecasts a record tuna output of 17,000-18,000 tonnes this year. To enhance the quality, fishermen should avoid using high pressure lamps and use traditional methods to fish for tuna.

Sharing the same view, Chairman of the Phu Yen Tuna Association Nguyen Khac Tan said that the industry needs to make regulations to prevent fishing by high pressure lamps and ensure the quality, value and trademark of Vietnamese tuna in the global market.

Besides, the Government needs to issue more preferential policies for the industry.-VNA