Vietnam’s tuna exports rise, with Israel a potential new market

Tuna is Vietnam’s most valuable offshore catch, and the Vietnam Association of Seafood Exporters and Producers is seeking to maximize its growing value on the global market.

Tuna caught in Vietnam - mostly yellowfin, but also some bigeye - is almost all exported and is sent around the world. Vietnam exports tuna to 87 markets, with the U.S.A. being the largest buyer, the association said. It was followed by the European Union, ASEAN countries and Japan.

An artisan fleet of approximately 2,000 small wooden vessels catch the fish by longline off the coast of central Vietnam from the holiday resort of Nha Trang in Khan Hoa Province up to Binh Dinh Province to the north. 

From 2002 to 2008, Vietnam's tuna exports increased from 20,700 metric tons to a high of more than 50,000 metric tons. That total was worth about USD 182 million (EUR 163 million) in value at the time, according to an FAO GLOBEFISH report. 

However, even though total catch is down, the value of Vietnam's tuna is up, with the country earned more than USD 266 million (EUR 236 million) for its tuna exports through the first seven months of 2016, according to VASEP, as reported by Vietnam News. That's an increase of 0.9 percent in value of the same period last year, according to VASEP.

So far this year, tuna exports to the U.S. have been worth USD 111.6 million (EUR 99.2 million) to Vietnam, a slight year-on-year increase of 0.5 percent.

Exports of fresh and frozen tuna accounted for more than USD 76.8 million (EUR 68.3 million) of total U.S. exports, up by nearly 11 percent over the same period last year, while exports of processed tuna (code HS 16) decreased by more than 16 percent.

VASEP forecasts that tuna exports to the U.S., ASEAN countries and China will continue to increase. Sales of fresh and frozen tuna, the two major export categories, fell by 9.6 percent compared so far in 2016 compared to the same period last year; however, exports of processed tuna products increased by nearly 12 percent.

Lê Hằng, of VASEP, said Vietnam’s tuna products, especially processed tuna, were subject to high tariffs in many import markets. However, ongoing efforts to reduce tarrifs on processed tuna products, as well as an organized effort to improve the quality of tuna fishing, buying and processing is expected to help improve the nation's competitiveness in the sector, she said.

Exports to ASEAN member countries have increased by 24.9 percent so far in 2016 compared to the same period last year, but exports to the E.U. and Japan were down by 8.2 percent and 10.6 percent respectively.

In the case of Japan, while fresh and frozen tuna shipments were down by 26.5 percent, exports of processed tuna enjoyed good growth of 10 percent.

Israel is a potential market for Vietnamese tuna products, according to the Africa and Southwest Asia Market Department of the Vietnamese Ministry of Industry and Trade.

Vietnamese tuna exports to Israel in the first half of this year were worth USD 8.6 million (EUR 7.6 million), a year-on-year increase of over 4 percent.

According to VASEP, Israel is one of eight key export markets for Vietnamese tuna and last year Vietnam earned USD 15.5 million (EUR 13.8 million) from exports to that country. Frozen tuna fillet (HS0304 code) currently accounts for approximately 60 percent of Vietnamese tuna exports, and processed tuna (HS16 code) about 30 percent.

With a population with an obesity rate of over 20 percent, the Israeli Ministry of Health has recommended that consumers there eat tuna as a health supplement containing omega 3-fatty acids.

According to United Nations Comtrade statistics, Thailand is the largest tuna exporter to Israel, with an export value of USD 18.6 million (16.5 EUR million) last year.

Israel’s tuna imports from China declined by more than USD 40 million (EUR 36 million) in 2013 to USD 13.9 million (EUR 12.4 million) last year.

VASEP said there is still more room for Vietnam to boost its tuna exports to Israel and, indeed, to increase exports generally. It suggested firms should focus on improving their steaming, drying and canning technologies to boost exports of processed products and increase the product range. In addition, VASEP criticized handling and storage facilities both onboard and ashore in Vietnam primitive and the organization is seeking help from Japan to improve technology and processes in these areas.

With the value of tuna exported from Vietnam experience a dramatic increase, VASEP is confident potential for it to rise still further if Vietnam can improve its technology and marketing.


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