Vietnam protests Saudi Arabia’s seafood import ban

Published on
February 12, 2018

Vietnam has sent a diplomatic note to oppose a seafood import suspension imposed recently by Saudi Arabia, calling on the country to withdraw its decision.

Vietnam’s vice minister of agriculture, Vu Van Tam, delivered the ministry’s diplomatic note to Saudi Arabia’s ambassador to Vietnam, Dakhil Al Johani, in a meeting in Hanoi on 7 February, the Vietnam Association of Seafood Exporters and Producers (VASEP) said in a statement.

Tam said Vietnam was surprised about the temporary suspension, which he said contains aspects that violate international trading laws.

Saudi Food and Drug Authority (SFDA) on 30 January temporarily suspended imports of fish, crustaceans, and other products of aquatic animal origin from Vietnam due to the presence of two diseases in the Southeast Asian nation.

The ban, effective 23 January, was based on the World Organization for Animal Health (OIE)’s "Quarterly Aquatic Animal Disease Report (Asia-Pacific Region) April - June 2017," which shows that white spot disease and acute hepatopancreatic necrosis disease are present in Vietnam, SFDA said in its notification of emergency measures.

Prior to the issuance of the ban, SFDA dispatched a technical team to Vietnam to observe control measures applied by the Vietnamese government for export facilities of fish, crustaceans, and other products of aquatic animal origin, and following its inspection, the team recommended the ban, according to the note.

Nguyen Nhu Tiep, director of the Vietnamese Agriculture Ministry’s National Agro-Forestry-Fisheries Quality Assurance Department, said Saudi Arabia’s decision was “not reasonable.” SFDA has not sent Vietnam any feedback after its inspection, he said. In addition, white-spot disease is present in shrimp in Saudi Arabia, too, according to Vietnam’s Department of Animal Health. Thus, under regulations of the OIE, Saudi Arabia must prove the safety level of the disease in its country before imposing a ban on imports of shrimp from other countries, Tiep said.

Furthermore, Saudi Arabia’s ban on cooked shrimp products from Vietnam goes against OIE’s rules and international practices, Tiep said, given that the cooking process destroys any disease risk.

Tiep added his opposition to the fact that while Saudi Arabia’s inspection team had only carried out inspections at a few Vietnamese pangasius companies, the SFDA had instituted an import ban on all seafood products from Vietnam. He noted that Saudi Arabia was the only country to have instituted such a ban out of the 160-plus countries and territories to which Vietnam ships seafood, including many with stringent requirements for biosecurity, disease safety, and food security.

The Saudi Arabian ambassador said he shared Vietnam’s concerns over the ban and that he would hand over the diplomatic note to SFDA and work with relevant agencies to make sure the issue does not affect the two countries’ overall trading ties, according to the VASEP’s statement.

Vietnam exported seafood products worth USD 64.68 million (EUR 51.86 million) to Saudi Arabia in 2017, rising 5.5 percent from USD 61.31 million (EUR 49.15 million) in 2016, latest customs data from Vietnam showed.

Saudi Arabia has also suspended imports of aquaculture products from Bangladesh and Myanmar and farmed fish from India, VASEP said.

Reporting from Hanoi, Vietnam

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