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The US is no longer Vietnam's No. 1 buyer of its seafood and catfish. China is. This comes in the wake of a 16% increase in Vietnamese seafood exports in the first quarter. China's catfish imports from Vietnam significantly increased by 42%, although there is concern about quality control, according to the Vietnam Association of Seafood Exporters and Producers.




China overtakes US as largest importer of Vietnam seafood


China has dislodged the US as the largest importer of Vietnamese seafood, even as

the country's seafood exports in March 2018 increased 16% to US$279 million and 16% also in the first three months to more than US719 million compared with the same period last year, according to the Vietnam Association of Seafood Exporters and Producers (VASEP). 


The world's second-largest economy has also become the largest importer of Vietnamese catfish. VASEP said catfish exports to China increased 42%, and this market has also surpassed the US to become the biggest for Vietnamese catfish. However, the export of catfish to China is a potential concern for the industry both across the sea and land. Because the quality control is not synchronized, the export price through these two route methods are different, leading to unfair competition and destabilizing the source of exports, VASEP said as reported in Customs News.


Exports of catfish in March 2018 were estimated at $165 million, up also by 16%. The total export value of catfish in the first three months was nearly $430 million, an increase of almost 16% over the same period. The increase in quantity and the price of catfish has led to a steady increase in catfish exports during the first months of the year, VASEP said.


Exports of bivalve mollusks decreased 10% in the first quarter, while octopus exports increased 19% to $157 million. Other marine fish exports increased 19% to nearly $310 million.


Seafood exports in the second quarter is expected to face some market difficulty including the high anti-dumping tax. The tax of $3.87 per kilogramme in the 13th administrative review (POR13) for Vietnamese catfish makes the number of catfish-exporting companies much fewer. In addition, the inspection programme of catfish and yellow card may continue to affect the seafood exports of Vietnam.


However, Vietnamese companies can boost exports if they take advantage of the free trade agreements with the EU (effective June 2018) and with South Korea, while expanding and transferring to other potential markets, VASEP said.




Myanmar fishery exports at 20-year high


Myanmar has reached a milestone in fisheries trade when its exports of over 560,000 tonnes of fishery products worth $711 million in fiscal year 2017-18 were the highest in 20 years.


The value could more than double to $2 billion-$3 billion within the next two years, if the right technology, resources and equipment are used, said U Htay Myint, chair of the Myanmar Fishery Federation, according to the Myanmar Times. These resources and equipment would include ponds for aquaculture, processing factories and cold storage facilities.


In 2016-17, the country exported over 430,000 tonnes of fishery products worth $600 million overseas, according to the Ministry of Agriculture, Livestock and Irrigation (MOALI).


Htay Myint said the Ministry of Planning and Finance has agreed to provide funds of up to 100 billion Burmese kyat (US$75.59 million) to develop the supply chain and modernise the aquaculture process.


Due to overfishing and pollution, MOALI earlier this year launched dialogues for the drafting a National Aquaculture Development Plan to preserve the country's fish supplies.


The plan will include strategies to leverage on Myanmar's 3,000-mile coastline and large estuarine delta systems to develop its aquaculture industry.


The government has extended loans to small and medium fishery enterprises. Specifically, the Yangon regional government is cooperating with local businesses to build fishery breeding zones in Kayan, Thone Gwa and Kyauk Tan townships in Yangon Region, according to the Myanmar Fishery Federation.


Myanmar fishery products are mainly exported to China, Thailand, Singapore, Malaysia and some European countries.




Vietnam asks US to rescind new pangasius export tariff


While the US has maintained that a new tariff imposed on Vietnamese pangasius exports would not significantly disrupt trade from Vietnam to the US, the Southeast Asian country insisted that the tariff was a protectionist move and "not objective". Vietnam has asked for its revocation, according to the Vietnam Association of Seafood Exporters and Producers (VASEP).


The US Department of Commerce imposed a higher tariff for Vietnamese pangasius exports following the completion of an anti-dumping investigation on March 15. The new tariff stands at $7.74 per kilogramme on products from the two companies that were the subject of the investigation, while other exporters face a fee of $3.87/kg, still the highest tax the US has ever imposed on Vietnamese pangasius.


US Ambassador to Vietnam Daniel Kritenbrink said that the tariffs were based on a routine, regular review, adding that Vietnam still had full access to the US market, including pangasius-related products.


The US has been the biggest importer of Vietnamese pangasius for the past several years, but strict regulations on quality and food safety, particularly the catfish inspection programme launched in August 2017 to check the fish from the farm through to processing and shipment, have challenged Vietnamese exporters.


Vietnam earned $1.78 billion from pangasius exports last year, up 4.3% from 2016, but exports of the fish to the US dropped 11% to $387 million, VASEP said.




Scotland aquaculture industry 'environmentally impaired'?


A Scottish Parliament committee that looked into the current state of the aquaculture industry has released its report, wherein it expressed concern about the sector's full lack of understanding on the importance of the impact it has on the environment.


The committee on the environment, climate change and land reform said in its report that it "is deeply concerned that the growth of the sector is taking place without a full understanding of the environmental impacts".


Also, the report added, the committee was not convinced that the sector is being regulated sufficiently, and "this requires urgent attention".


The report said that the salmon farming industry raised the same environmental concern back in 2002, but that the scale and impact have now expanded.


It claimed that the planned expansion of salmon farming over the next 10 to 15 years, which aims to grow the industry by 300,000 to 400,000 tonnes, is unsustainable and may, without changes in approach, cause "irrecoverable damage".


"The sector has ambitious expansion targets, but the Committee is concerned as to how these can be achieved in an environmentally sustainable way", said Graeme Dey, environment, climate change and land reform committee convener.


"In raising awareness of the serious environmental concerns, the Committee hopes to helpfully inform the rural economy and connectivity committee's upcoming wider scrutiny of the salmon industry in Scotland", he added.




Aquaculture a boon for poor consumers


Aquaculture has benefited poor consumers more than ever thought, according to findings of a research.


The authors (Ben Belton, assistant professor of International Development, Michigan State University; Dave Little, professor of Aquatic Resources Development, University of Stirling; and Simon Bush, professor and chair of Environmental Policy, Wageningen University) said that much research on aquaculture has emphasised production for export, especially of shrimp, salmon and Vietnamese pangasius, which account for less than 10% of global farmed fish production. 


"This focus has led scholars to question whether aquaculture contributes to the food security of poorer people in producing countries. Many have concluded it does not", the researchers said.


"This bias reflects the priorities and concerns of developed countries that fund research, as well as civil society organisations that work to promote sustainable aquaculture production through international trade", they said.


They said their research found that the vast majority of farmed fish is in fact consumed in developing countries where it is produced, and is widely accessible to poorer consumers in these markets.


Because many scholars assume that this small group of internationally traded species is representative of global aquaculture, they believe that fish farmed in developing nations is mainly exported to wealthy countries, the researchers said.


"The literature also suggests that fish farmers find it most profitable to grow species with a high market value, generating little benefit for poorer consumers", they added.


Based on their analysis, the researchers found that export trade from such countries as Thailand, China and Vietnam is relatively insignificant, with 89% of their farmed fish such as shrimp, tilapia and pangasius catfish remaining in their domestic markets.


Consumption of farmed fish by poorer households increased, more than offsetting a decline in the quantity of wild fish eaten.


"These trends imply that the expansion of fish farming has been good for the poor. Low-income households in the countries that we studied would eat less fish of any kind today, wild or farmed, were it not for the growth of aquaculture", the researchers said.




South Australia commercial oysters declared disease-free


South Australia has lifted a ban on commercial operations in the entire state's Pacific oyster farming areas after samples from those areas tested negative to the Pacific Oyster Mortality Syndrome (POMS) virus.


"These results are a welcomed 'all-clear' for our commercial oyster industry to return to normal operations," said Peter Dietman, acting executive director of fisheries and aquaculture of the government agency Primary Industries and Regions South Australia (PIRSA.


Earlier in March, the POMS virus was detected in feral Pacific oysters in South Australia, particularly Port River. PIRSA stressed that the virus had not been detected in oyster farming areas.


Dietman said PIRSA has achieved extensive surveillance and testing of oysters from multiple sites in each of the growing areas on Kangaroo Island, Yorke Peninsula and the Eyre Peninsula, as well as all oyster hatcheries.


He said PIRSA will maintain its focus on addressing the feral oyster population in the Port River, which has already considerably reduced, and will continue a surveillance programme with industry for early detection.


"The water temperature will drop over the coming weeks and this will further mitigate the potential risk of the virus spreading outside of the Port River, as any remaining virus will likely become inactive", he added.


The removal of any bivalve shellfish such as oysters, mussels, cockles and Razorfish from the Port River area, including West Lakes, is still prohibited.


"PIRSA will continue to work closely with the oyster industry in planning for any future commercial risks from the POMS virus", Dietman said


"South Australia's oysters are delicious and safe to eat, and that has never been compromised during this incident", said Trudy McGowan, executive officer of the SA Oyster Growers' Association.


The first Australian case of POMS was recorded in 2010 in New South Wales, and the most recent outbreak in commercially grown oysters was detected in Tasmania in February 2016.




Value of Ireland's thriving seafood sector breaches €1B mark


Ireland's seafood sector posted its third consecutive year of growth in 2017, its value up 6.4% compared with the previous year and breaching the €1 billion mark for the first time.


The growth was driven by a 12% increase in net exports (€331 million), a 4% increase in domestic consumption (€429 million) and significant ongoing investment, both private and public (€386 million), according to Bord Iascaigh Mhara (BIM), Ireland's Seafood Development Agency in a report.


The value of trade surpassed €1 billion for the first time (registering €1.15 billion), BIM said. 


Saying Ireland's seafood industry is thriving, BIM CEO Jim O'Toole bared that over the last two years, the contribution of the seafood sector to Ireland's GDP has grown by over 14%.


"The fact trade sales have exceeded €1 billion for the first time demonstrates the clear demand for Irish seafood", he said.


The EU remains Ireland's main export market valued at €392 million (up 9%). France is Ireland's No. 1 export market for seafood accounting for over one quarter of total exports.


The BIM report also said that Irish seafood is building significant growth markets across Africa, Asia and the Middle East, all demonstrating double-digit growths.


On the domestic market, Irish consumers' purchase of seafood grew 4% valued at €429 million. Domestic consumption covers sales in supermarkets and shops as well as in restaurants, cafes and canteens. Salmon, cod and prawns continued to be favoured by Irish consumers, with salmon valued at €96 million and cod at €48 million.




January-March best quarter ever for Norway cod exporters


Norway's seafood exports in the first quarter may have declined both in volume and value, but the first three months of the year was the best quarter ever for cod, whose export value totalled over NOK3 billion (US$384.91 million), according to the Norwegian Seafood Council (NSC).


"This is the best quarter for cod ever, with a total export value of over NOK 3 billion. In particular, clipfish (salted and dried cod), salted fish and fresh whole cod have experienced price increases, with 19, 12 and 7 percent respectively. This is due to strong demand in our most important consumer markets, such as Portugal and Spain", said Ingrid Kristine Pettersen, seafood analyst with the NSC.


Norway exported 676,000 tonnes of seafood with a value of NOK23.7 billion in the first quarter, down 8% in terms of volume and down 2% or NOK488 million in value compared with the first quarter last year.


While Norway's exports of clipfish decreased 3% to 21,500 tonnes in the first quarter, their value increased 3% or NOK 24 million to NOK943 million ($121.01 million). Portugal, Brazil and the Dominican Republic were the main markets for clipfish in the first quarter.


Johnny Thomassen, director with the NSC operations in Portugal, said demand has remained strong for clipfish in Portugal.


Norway exported 32,000 tonnes of fresh cod including skrei (winter cod), worth NOK1.1 billion ($141.24 million) in the first quarter. This is a slight decrease in volume from last year, while export value increased 4% or NOK42 million.


Norway exported 22,000 tonnes of frozen cod valued at NOK772 million ($99.12 million) in the first quarter, or an increase in volume of 5%, while export values increased 13% orNOK86 million compared with the same period last year.


"Usually we see that the price of fresh whole cod and skrei declines in March, but this year the price has actually increased. Skrei volumes have also increased during the same period", said Pettersen.


Norway's salmon exports in the first quarter increased 6% to 246,000 tonnes, while export value fell 1.5% or NOK240 million compared with the first quarter last year. The average price for fresh whole salmon fell from NOK65.43 ($8.40) to NOK61.11 ($7.85) per kilogramme. Poland, France and the US were the largest markets for Norwegian salmon in the first quarter.


"A strong growth in salmon prices in recent months means that we are optimistic about the further development of seafood exports for 2018. For example, the average price in November for fresh whole salmon was NOK50.50 per kg. In March, this had risen to NOK 67.59 per kg. High campaign activity in large markets such as France, Britain and Italy in combination with a strong euro has contributed to a price boost for salmon", said Paul T. Aandahl, seafood analyst with the NSC.


Norway exported 9,800 tonnes of trout worth NOK633 million ($81.28 million) in the first quarter. Export volumes increased 14%, while export values fell 6% or NOK 43 million compared with the first quarter in 2017. Belarus, the US and Poland were Norway's largest markets for Norwegian trout in the first quarter.


Norway exported 450 tonnes of king crab worth NOK126 million ($16.185 million) in the first quarter. This is a decrease of 14%, while the value fell 10% or NOK14 million.


For prawns, the export volume increase was 12% to a total of 2,000 tonnes, while the value increased 19% or NOK27 million to NOK165 million ($21.2 million) in the first quarter.




Shrimp for export to So. Korea need health certificate


The US has served notice that frozen/chilled shrimp and live wild aquatic animal exports to South Korea require a health certificate starting last April 1.


NOAA Fisheries said the new requirement does not preclude normal inspection procedures including lot inspection, in-plant inspection and a current HACCP QMP (Hazard Analysis Critical Control Point Quality Management Programme) system.


Earlier, starting last April 9, 2017, live-farmed aquatic animals, frozen/chilled abalone, and frozen/chilled oysters were also required a health certificate.


South Korea had also required export health certificates for by-products including frozen cod heads, tuna heads and southern hake heads; visceral by-products such as edible fish roe, pollock entrails, hard roe and the nidamental gland of squid. 


All other fresh/frozen fishery products do not currently require a certification, NOAA Fisheries said.

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