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Seafood processors face shortages   2012-02-23 - VNS

Inspectors check shrimp at Tho Quang Seafood Processing and Export Co. — VNA/VNS An Dang
  Seafood exporters are facing numerous difficulties, including a shortage of working capital and raw materials for processing, a fall in overseas demand, and the high costs of quality inspection, a meeting in HCM City heard on Monday.

The chairman of the Viet Nam Association of Seafood Exporters and Producers (VASEP), Tran Thien Hai, warned that this year would be the most difficult ever for seafood firms.

The ongoing economic crisis could hit global seafood demand, and importing countries could increase food hygiene and safety requirements, he said.

Demand in the EU market for high-priced items like shrimp and tuna would fall, while payment would be slower than before, he said.

Truong Dinh Hoe, VASEP general secretary, said a shortage of raw materials continued to be a headache.

Last year the country spent more than US$500 million to import raw seafood for processing for export.

Tra fish output has plunged this year because neither companies nor farmers had the money to invest in farming, he said.

As for shrimp, many farms have been hit by diseases, reducing output, he said.

Generally, higher input costs have taken a toll on raw material supply, he said.

Duong Ngoc Minh, general director of Hung Vuong Seafood JS Company, said due to the higher production costs seafood firms needed more working capital, but banks have tightened lending to the industry. As a result, many did not have the means to buy raw materials from farmers, he said.

Seafood firms complained about the high costs involved in inspecting export consignments besides the time it takes (7-10 days), saying this reduced their competitiveness.

But the failure to control quality at earlier stages meant the root of the problems involving antibiotic residues in seafood products remained unaddressed, they said.

This should be changed, they said, saying inspections must be done at all stages in the production chain.

Minister of Agriculture and Rural Development Cao Duc Phat said his ministry would assist the seafood industry in overcoming difficulties. Ensuring quality and hygiene and food safety were very important to maintain the prestige of the Vietnamese seafood industry, he said.

He ordered the National Agro-Forestry-Fisheries Quality Assurance Department to review inspection procedures for export consignments to reduce costs for enterprises while still meeting importing countries' quality requirements.

He called on local authorities to carefully oversee seafood farming based on VietGap or GlobalGap (good agricultural practices) standards to improve productivity and quality.

"We will also step up checks of quality of feed, brood stock, and chemicals used in aquaculture," he said.

Quality control for the whole production chain has been implemented in some places, and would be expanded to many others this year, he said.

He urged seafood processors to link up with farmers to set up seafood production unions for producing quality products that would meet the requirements of not only the domestic market but also export markets.

He also told them to avoid unhealthy competition which can affect the industry's prestige.

The seafood industry earned $6.1 billion from exports last year, and is hopeful of achieving the export target of $6.5 billion this year despite the many difficulties it anticipates.

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