July 7, 2021

Seafood exporters from Vietnam are sending more dried and processed products to China to cope with a decline in sales caused by the latter’s tough measures against imported frozen products to contain the spread of Covid-19.

Exporters in Vietnam are also exporting less frozen seafood and are rushing to have employees vaccinated in order to adapt to the situation.

Seafood exports from Vietnam to China, one of its major export markets, began to slow down during the closing months of last year. Strict measures imposed by Chinese authorities on import cargoes to avoid any potential transmission of the coronavirus caused delays in the delivery of seafood shipments from Vietnam.

The trend continues this year. China (excluding Hong Kong) was the only major market out of the top four destinations that saw sales values decline in May. Sales to China were down 25.7% year-on-year to €80.3 million in May, which was higher than the drop of 15.7% in April.

The value of seafood exports to China in the first five months also contracted 6.7% year-on-year to €291.6m, customs data showed.

Of the total, sales of shrimp during January-May fell 19% year-on-year to €114.7m. The export value of sea fish (excluding tuna) also slid 5% to €58.6m in the period. The decline was partly offset by the higher sales of pangasius, worth €138.6m, up 2% year-on-year.

The Vietnam Association of Seafood Exporters and Producers (VASEP) said China’s moves against imported cargoes have discouraged Vietnamese exporters from shipping live and frozen seafood, while encouraging them to export dried and processed products.

According to the VASEP, China’s tough inspection measures against frozen seafood have affected shipments not only from Vietnam but also from other exporters such as India, Ecuador, Russia, and the United States. 

Apart from containing the Covid-19 outbreak, China wants to restrict imports so the consumption of its domestic seafood can be raised amid difficulties finding markets for exports due to the trade war with the U.S. and the pandemic’s impacts in other export markets, VASEP cited industry experts as saying.

Zhanjiang, a port in China’s Guangdong Province, has announced that it will temporarily stop receiving cargoes of frozen seafood from Vietnam and 10 other Asian countries due to loading capacity.

The decision by Zhanjiang Port Group Co., Ltd will be applied to shipments from Vietnam, India, Pakistan, Bangladesh, Nepal, Bhutan, Myanmar, Laos, Thailand, Cambodia, and Mongolia from June 20 to July 15, the National Agro-Forestry-Fisheries Quality Assurance Department said.

The VASEP said it is an alarming move that exporters from Vietnam should watch closely and warn other ports in China or in other countries may issue similar orders if the coronavirus outbreak situation in their localities is getting worse.

Vietnam is considered a safe place for seafood buyers from many countries. However, the new and complicated outbreak that is disrupting activities in many cities and provinces across the country may pose a risk to the seafood sector if vaccinations are not given out fast enough, the VASEP said.

On May 26, the trade group sent a letter to request the central government for the allocation of 500,000 vaccine doses, which its seafood-company members are willing to pay for. So far, no seafood processing factory in the country has ever been suspended due to the coronavirus outbreak.

However, as the pandemic is getting more complicated in Asia, the vaccination of employees is needed to help maintain the normal operation of the processing plants and the growth of seafood exports, VASEP said.

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