An unusually strong performance in the first two months and Japan's easing of its seafood import restrictions has raised expectations that Vietnam's fisheries industry will meet its annual export target with relative ease.

According to the Ministry of Agriculture and Rural Development, seafood exports in January and February increased 23.5 percent year-on-year to reach 919 million USD, including 335 million USD in February.

This has been a welcome surprise for the industry because seafood exports are usually slow in the first few months of the year, especially after the Tet holiday, the ministry said.

Exports to the US, still the largest market for Vietnamese seafood, increased 89 percent year-on-year, accounting for 26.67 percent of the total fisheries export value.

The value of seafood exports to Japan increased by 17.85 percent, to the Republic of Korea by 29.27 percent and to Australia by 31.45 percent, while it fell by 37.8 percent to China and by 7 percent to Thailand.

The Vietnam Association of Seafood Exporters and Producers (VASEP) Association said it expects the good start at the beginning of the year to help the industry achieve its annual exports target of between 6.8 and 6.9 billion USD –3 billion USD from shrimp, 1.6 billion USD from tra fish and 2.2 billion USD from other seafood products.

The ministry said shrimp would continue to be a major export item this year because Japan, a major market, has eased its strict standards for Vietnamese seafood imports.

Tra fish exports are also expected to improve over last year because some traditional buyers will reopen their markets, VASEP officials said.

For instance, Ukraine, a traditional buyer, has given licences to 10 Vietnamese seafood processors to export their tra fish products.

The agriculture ministry has said that as a key export item for the nation, it would pay even more attention this year to improving product quality as well as food hygiene and safety.

They would also work on building a trademark for Vietnamese seafood, that would enable local firms to expand their export markets, ministry officials said.-VNA