The Vietnam Association of Seafood Exporters and Producers (VASEP) has urged the country’s tra fish (pangasius) industry to focus on improving its quality to compete with not only traditional rivals, but also its biggest importer – China. Vietnam’s tra fish sector faces strong competition from countries like India, Indonesia, and Bangladesh, each representing 15-20% of global production.
Quality over Quantity
Experts suggest that the competitiveness of Vietnamese tra fish should not be assessed solely on quantity, but rather on the quality of the material and products. To address this issue, a 600-hectare high-tech tra fish farm will be developed in the Mekong Delta province of An Giang in the fourth quarter of this year. Once operational, the farm is expected to supply around 200,000 tonnes of high-quality raw materials annually for processing and subsequent export.
Opportunities in E-Commerce
VASEP Secretary General Trương Đình Hòe believes that once Vietnamese tra fish improves in quality and gains the trust of consumers in demanding markets, it will have more opportunities to be sold well on e-commerce platforms such as Alibaba of China and Amazon of the US. “Through the e-commerce website (Alibaba), Vietnam’s tra fish products will have greater chances to enter this giant market,” he added.
The global production of farmed tra fish was estimated at 2.8 million tonnes in 2018, up 6% from the previous year, and about 45% of this total was sourced from Vietnam, mostly in the Mekong Delta, according to the association. As of March 2019, there were 20 tra fish processing factories in China whose production capacity had reached some 30,000 tonnes per year. This indicates that China is likely to become a big rival to Vietnam’s tra fish industry in the near future.
Increased Competition from India
The Ministry of Agriculture and Rural Development has also warned that Vietnam will face more competition from India, especially in the black tiger shrimp market, where India has been exporting to Japan, one of Vietnam’s traditional export markets for seafood. India has targeted to triple its domestic seafood output with support from the government by promoting the development of projects relating to the production of shrimp varieties.
Vietnam’s seafood export value in the first three months of 2019 reached $1.8 billion, a year-on-year increase of 0.5%, including $645 million in March. The top four export markets of Vietnamese seafood in the first two months of 2019 were Japan, the US, China, and South Korea, accounting for 52.8% of the total seafood export value. Despite the growth, the purchasing price of tra fish and shrimp has reduced in March due to a drop in export orders of those seafood products. The Vietnamese tra fish industry must focus on improving quality to stay competitive in the global market.