In January 2018, tra and basa exports to mainland China, Hong Kong and ASEAN increased sharply, while exports to the EU market continued to decline. People harvest pangasius in Bnh Thuy district, Can Tho city. (Source: VNA)

Hanoi (VNA) – The US Department of Agriculture’s Food Safety and Inspection Service (FSIS) will inspect Vietnam’s pangasius quality control system in the next few months, according the National Agro-Forestry-Fisheries Quality Assurance Department (NAFIQAD).

In early March, NAFIQAD received a letter dated February 28, 2018 from FSIS announcing that it has completed its review of Vietnam’s self-reporting tools (SRT). FSIS determined that the country’s documented inspection system of controls appears to provide an equivalent level of public health protection as that applied domestically in the US.

FSIS also announced that it would conduct its own inspections of Vietnam’s reports in the next few months. The specific day of the inspection would be announced by FSIS later, the NAFIQAD said.

According to the US inspection programme for siluriformes, including catfish, Vietnam’s tra and basa fish products exported to the US will be strictly controlled from the stages of raising and harvesting fish to processing and packaging them.

In the past, NAFIQAD has cooperated with relevant agencies under the Ministry of Agriculture and Rural Development, Vietnam Association of Seafood Exporters and Producers (VASEP) and enterprises processing tra and basa fish for exports to the US to provide over 2,000 pages answering questionnaires under the SRT policies of the US catfish inspection programme.

In preparation for receiving the FSIS delegation of inspecting siluriformes production in Vietnam, NAFIQAD has required enterprises processing siluriformes for export to the US to continue implementing US regulations.

The enterprises must make timely reports to the ministry and relevant agencies of their difficulties when exporting siluriformes to the US in order to quickly develop solutions, said NAFIQAD Director Nguyen Nhu Tiep.

Meanwhile, the enterprises must coordinate with NAFIQAD to develop a specific working plan with the FSIS’ inspection delegation.

Tiep said to maintain their exports to the US, the enterprises must continue to upgrade their quality assurance system to ensure that products do not contain microorganisms or antibiotic residues.

The strict control would avoid the situation in which products arrive in the US but fail to pass inspection and are returned, damaging the business of the enterprises as well as the prestige of Vietnamese catfish products, he said.

VASEP Secretary General Truong Dinh Hoe said that Vietnam has done its best to deal with issues related to equivalence and the US has given specific instructions on how to comply with its requirements.

According to VASEP, Vietnam’s pangasius industry has developed well with a strict food safety control system.

However, VASEP is concerned that the US Government’s policy on imports to the US could create new challenges for Vietnam’s pangasius exports to that market, Hoe said.

According to the association, the total export value of Vietnam’s tra and basa fish in January reached 172.5 million USD, a year-on-year increase of 43.7 percent.

In January 2018, tra and basa exports to mainland China, Hong Kong and ASEAN increased sharply, while exports to the EU market continued to decline.

However, many exporters are expected to face many difficulties, including lack of raw materials and purchasing prices of material to peak at above 30,000 VND per kilo. The higher price of raw materials would push the export value of pangasius up further in the future.

The export value of catfish to mainland China and Hong Kong increased 132 percent over the same period in 2017 to 41 million USD, becoming the largest export market for Vietnamese pangasius products.

The export value of Vietnamese tra and basa to the US market reached 26 million USD, up 31 percent while the export value to ASEAN market also reached 19.1 million, up 126 percent over the same period last year.
With the high export value, ASEAN surpassed the EU to become Vietnam’s third largest export market. This year, ASEAN is expected to retain this important position.

Three other potential markets are Mexico, Colombia and Saudi Arabia, with high growth rates of 55.7 percent; 81.4 percent and 78.9 percent, respectively.-VNA