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ASEAN Emerges as Big Market for Vietnamese Seafood

ASEAN is becoming a major market for Vietnamese seafood, with a potential for growth due to its vast population and economic incentives. Despite the focus on the “Big 4” (US, China, Japan, and South Korea), ASEAN countries have imported 9.2 times more Vietnamese seafood compared to 1998, with Thailand, the Philippines, and Singapore being the top importers.

Vietnamese seafood is making waves in the ASEAN market, with local insiders predicting even bigger potential for growth. Last year alone, Vietnam exported $612 million worth of seafood to ASEAN countries, which is 9.2 times more than the amount exported in 1998. Reports from the Vietnam Association of Seafood Exporters and Producers (VASEP) indicate that all nine countries in the regional bloc were importing seafood from Vietnam, with Thailand, the Philippines, and Singapore being the largest importers.

Thailand, for instance, has bought $248 million worth of Vietnamese seafood, accounting for 40 percent of the total export value to ASEAN countries. This reflected the regional intake, multiplying nine times in the last 20 years. In second place is the Philippines, which imported seafood worth $132 million, a 2,000-fold increase over the paltry $63,000 in 1999.

Export of sea fish to ASEAN countries reached $289 million last year, making it Vietnam’s main seafood export item to the regional bloc. Squid and octopus came in second at $71 million, more than 10 times the $7 million in 1998.

The potential for the ASEAN market is also bolstered by the establishment of the ASEAN Economic Community (AEC) in 2015, which has created an opportunity for Vietnam’s seafood industry with significant tax incentives. Moreover, the ASEAN population is expected to reach 790 million by 2050, creating a considerable demand for food. VASEP estimates that seafood consumption in the bloc will increase from 24.5 million tons in 2015 to 37 million in 2030, and per capita seafood consumption will grow from 38.4 kilograms per person a year to 51.5 kilograms in 2030.

Despite the potential for growth in the ASEAN market, Vietnamese businesses have kept their focus on the traditionally top markets for seafood export, namely the US, Japan, China, and South Korea. These four countries accounted for 52.7 percent of total export value of Vietnamese seafood last year, according to the Ministry of Agriculture and Rural Development.

However, China has recorded a strong year-on-year growth of 28.8 percent in seafood imports from Vietnam in the first four months of this year. China is also the largest importer of Vietnamese pangasius fish, and potentially of shrimp in the future, according to VASEP.

In conclusion, the ASEAN market is an emerging opportunity for Vietnamese seafood, with its vast population and economic incentives. Although the “Big 4” markets still dominate Vietnamese seafood exports, the ASEAN market has great potential for growth, and local businesses should start to take advantage of this market.


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