Vietnam shifting pangasius exports to China

Published on
October 16, 2017

Sales of Vietnamese pangasius to two of the country’s most important export markets, the European Union and the United States, are in sharp decline. European importers will not pay more than rock-bottom prices for IQF pangasius fillets, and the U.S. market has become unstable and protectionist, according to the Vietnam Association of Seafood Producers and Exporters (VASEP).

Pangasius producers in Vietnam are therefore seeking to improve sales to Asian countries and particularly to their northern neighbor, China, the organization said.

Already there are signs that this change in focus is taking place. According to VASEP, pangasius exports are expected to be worth USD 952 million (EUR 806 million) in the second half of 2017, a slight year-on-year increase of three percent.

However, the value of shipments to China is expected to grow by a massive 50 to 60 percent, while the U.S. and E.U. reduce their imports by 10 to15 percent and five percent, respectively.

With the largest population in the world and an increasingly affluent one, China has already become a strong very lucrative market for Vietnamese seafood products. Demand for Vietnamese shrimp is rising rapidly and Chinese buyers are also on the lookout for value-added products manufactured from shrimp.

Speaking at the VASEP plenary meeting during the recent Vietfish exhibition, Lee Hằng, deputy director of the VASEP Training and Trade Promotion Center, said the value of fisheries exports to China soared from USD 152 million (EUR 129 million) in 2007 to USD 860 million (EUR 728 million) last year. Shrimp and pangasius saw the strongest increase and continue to have the potential for double-digit growth rate in the coming years, she said.

Chinese consumers are increasingly eating more fish than meat, while local output from aquaculture and fisheries is shrinking, offering Vietnamese exporters a good opportunity, she added.  But the market also has risks, she warned. China could tighten hygiene, food safety, and quarantine regulations.

Yang Yong, chairman of Guang Zhou Nutriera Biotechnology Co Ltd, said Chinese consumers are increasingly looking at product quality, safety, and convenience. Brands are one of the key factors for them in choosing a product, and they are willing to pay 20 to 30 percent more for branded products. 

Vietnamese exporters could make products more convenient or nutritious for Chinese consumers, he said. For instance, Vietnamese firms could add vegetable extracts to pangasius to increase the omega-3 content or additives to improve flavor.

Hằng said Chinese consumers’ tastes change rapidly and so producers must keep a close eye on the market to come up with appropriate products.

Trương Tuyết Hoa of Vĩnh Hoàn Corporation, the market leader for pangasius abroad, said her company’s exports to China have increased sharply. Chinese importers have diverse demands in all segments, and her company focuses on processed products and products with high added value, she said.

Vinh Hoan aims for pole position in every major export market in which it operates, Trương said. The company has opened representative offices in Europe and America, and as soon the Chinese market looked to be opening up for pangasius exports, its whole management team went there to meet the largest seafood importers to set up a strategy for close cooperation.

In order to boost the expansion of international and regional markets for pangasius, particularly the Chinese market, the Pangasius and Vietnamese Seafood Product Exhibition take place for the first time from October 6 to 8 at the Agricultural Exhibition Center in Hanoi’s Cầu Giấy District.

The organizers say the exhibition will be an opportunity for businesses, distributors, and consumers to popularize their images and brand names, promote consumption of pangasius and other fish products in the domestic market in general, and the northern market in particular.

In addition, it is also a chance for businesses to expand, connecting distributors, supermarkets, and consumers inside and outside the country.

The exhibition is expected to attract more than 100 booths of domestic and foreign enterprises, showcasing seafood products such as pangasius, value-added products and auxiliary products for pangasius production and other key Vietnamese seafood items.

As well as the exhibition itself, there will also be a workshop on pangasius production and consumption, and a cuisine program introducing dishes made from pangasius by famous chefs.

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