Vietnam’s shrimp sector thriving thanks to swift COVID-19 containment

Vietnam's shrimp sector has been reaping the benefits of the country’s successful containment of the COVID-19 outbreak, with growth seen in export and farming activities.

Official data from Vietnam government shows that the country has experienced more than 50 consecutive days without any new cases of the coronavirus in the community, thanks to its early and resolute actions by its government. As of 5 June, Vietnam had more than 300 confirmed cases, with zero deaths. Almost all restrictions during the social distancing order imposed in the first half of April have been lifted, and major economic and social activities have been brought back to a “new normal” since late April.

Meanwhile, the number of cases is much higher in other major shrimp-producing countries, where farming and processing activities have been severely disrupted. As of 5 June, the confirmed cases of the coronavirus were more than 227,000 in India, nearly 41,000 in Ecuador, around 29,000 in Indonesia, and 3,100 in Thailand, according to data from Johns Hopkins University.

Vietnamese shrimp companies and farmers, though facing headwinds due to the disruptions in their primary export markets in the first months following the outbreak, have been performing well recently.

Data from Vietnam Association of Seafood Exporters and Producers (VASEP) shows that the country exported shrimp worth USD 244.2 million (EUR 216.7 million) in April, rising 5.8 percent from a year ago. Shrimp exports in the first four months increased 2.9 percent year-on-year to USD 872.8 million (EUR 774.7 million) in value.

The sales of shrimp to Japan, the largest buyer, rose 19 percent year-on-year to USD 48.6 million (EUR 43 million) in April, and surged 11 percent to USD 180.5 million (EUR 160 million) in the first four months of the year.

Exports to the United States also saw a year-on-year increase of 14 percent to USD 43.2 million (EUR 38.3 million) in April and increased 17 percent to USD 158.7 million (EUR 141 million) in value. The stable demand for Vietnamese shrimp from the U.S. took place amid a decline in their imports from India and Ecuador, both of which are struggling with the COVID-19 outbreak, VASEP said.

Shipments of shrimp to China (including Hong Kong) in April also grew the first time this year, with sales value of USD 39.2 million (EUR 34.8 million), up 16.6 percent year-on-year.

VASEP forecasts that Vietnam is expected to receive more shrimp orders from foreign customers as its major competitors including India, Ecuador, Indonesia, and Thailand are still coping with the COVID-19 crisis.

Amid a surge in exports, a number of shrimp companies have reported better business results.

Fimex (Sao Ta) increased its production and export value in May compared to April, while top exporter Minh Phu Seafood hopes its net profit will increase significantly in the second quarter due to a higher self-supply of material.

Camimex Group, a shrimp exporter headquartered in Ca Mau Province, recorded an export value of USD 6.53 million (EUR 5.8 million) in April, up 186 percent from April 2019. Of its total shipments, 70 percent were shipped to the European Union, with the rest going to South Korea, Canada, and Japan. Camimex expects its sales value to be kept between USD 7 million to USD 8 million (EUR 6.2 million to EUR 7 million) a month in May and June, based on the contracts it has signed.

Fimex Chairman Ho Quoc Luc said in a statement in late May that thanks to the increase in exports, material prices were on the rise in the month. For example, the rate for 70-count-per-kilogram shrimp was VND 105,000 (USD 4.50, EUR 4.00), bringing a profit of around VND 35,000 (USD 1.5, EUR 1.3) per kilogram for farmers.

Luc said prices of shrimp from Vietnam are likely to maintain “good prices” in the beginning of the third quarter because stockpiles in major markets including Japan, the U.S., and the E.U. are not as high as previous months. Meanwhile, Vietnam is in a favorable position to boost production and exports, while most of its competitors in the world are struggling with the COVID-19 crisis. In China, the spread of the Decapod iridescent virus 1 (DIV1) was believed to have affected part of its shrimp farming activities. In India, extended lockdowns in April and May have resulted in severe disruptions in the shrimp supply chain, with new seedings at low levels. The pandemic also led to shortage of labor forces in Ecuador’s processing factories, and created other supply problems for Indonesia and Thailand.

According to Luc, the global shrimp supply this year is likely to fall by about 20 percent from 2019. He said the decline from the supply side may outnumber that from the demand side because higher sales from the retail sector have partially offset the drop in sales to the foodservice sector.

Encouraged by better prices and new export opportunities, farmers in Mekong Delta increased new their pond-stocking in May, which Luc said is good news for local processors, as they do not have to worry much about material in the coming months.

A representative from Viet-Uc, a leading supplier of post-larvae in Vietnam, told SeafoodSource this week that the country’s successful containment of the COVID-19 outbreak has benefited the domestic shrimp industry, with demand for post-larvae on the rise from May. As exports rose and demand for material from processors surged, local farmers increased new seedings in May to take advantage of the anticipated high prices in the third quarter. As a result, Viet-Uc’s sales volume of post-larvae in May was more than 20 percent higher than April.

Seafood trader Siam Canadian Group’s country manager for Vietnam, Bowie Leung, told SeafoodSource in late May he anticipated there will be a solid and stable demand for material for processing, as demand for exports has recovered. And Vietnamese farmers are likely to have “a good year” this year because since late 2018, local processors have preferred domestic material to imports.

But he said drought and salt intrusion in the Mekong Delta, along with the COVID-19 outbreak, will remain key issues that the sector has to watch out for. 

“For the baby shrimp seeding, what I worry is the drought in Mekong Delta. If the rain is enough, salinity is corrected, I am sure all farmers will do their right job. As we all see, the demand is coming back,” Leung said. He added that festival sales orders by the year-end will be “very positive” if a new vaccine for the coronavirus is announced by September.

The other factor that may affect Vietnam’s shrimp production is the potential spread of diseases due to adverse changes in weather conditions, according to Fimex’s Luc.

Data from Vietnam’s Ministry of Agriculture and Rural Development shows that the country’s total shrimp farming area, mainly in Mekong Delta, was 481,534 hectares as of 30 April, but 25,250 hectares of that total were affected by diseases.

Photo courtesy of Quang nguyen vinh/Shutterstock 


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