January 20, 2004



Vietnamese Seafood Exporters To Comply To EU Standards


Vietnamese seafood exporters will have to comply with stringent hygiene and safety standards if they want to vie for market share in the European Union, a fisheries official said.


The general director of the National Fisheries Quality Assurance and Veterinary Directorate, Nguyen Tu Cuong, said all Vietnamese exports to the EU are subject to the highest international standards.


He said 100 of Viet Nam's 300 seafood companies have met the EU's seafood import criteria.


"It is vital to meet the EU's health standards and consumer protection regulations. It is also a requirement for Viet Nam's accession to the WTO," said Cuong, who spoke at a seminar on EU regulations in Ho Chi Minh City.


Eight Vietnamese enterprises were recently included on the EU's list of shellfish exporters, and 12 regions in Viet Nam are allowed to export about 230,000 tonnes to the EU.


In 2000 and again late last year, Vietnamese seafood exporters received EU approval for their control of toxic chemical residues in their products.


The EU imposes strict requirements on the countries and companies that wish to export seafood to its markets, and must maintain their conditions to remain on the list.


The EU Commissioner for Health and Consumer Protection, David Byrne, told seminar participants that the EU will provide technical assistance to Vietnamese seafood companies to help them meet these criteria.


"The EU sees Viet Nam as a valuable partner in its approach towards the Asian region," he said.


"Viet Nam has already made good progress in breaking into European markets. This makes sense for a developing country, which has low costs, rich agriculture fishery resources and a lot of potential.


"However, this potential can only be fully realised if safety is central to food production systems."


He said the EU regulations closely follow those of Codex, the WTO agency responsible for issuing technical criteria.


The European Commission, with the Ministry of Trade, set up the Multilateral Trade Policy Assistance Programme (Mutrap) in 1998 with 3.2 million euros (US$2.5 million) in funding.


One of its projects aims to improve Viet Nam's compliance with the WTO's sanitary standards.


As a result, Viet Nam has improved the quality of its food exports, particularly seafood, to markets with high health protection standards such as the EU.


The European Commission has sent four delegations to inspect Viet Nam's food safety standards for seafood exports to the EU.


The commission found that standards were equal to EU's regulations and that relevant Vietnamese agencies had capacities equal to their EU counterparts.


Those findings helped to eliminate the need for inspections in the EU, Cuong said.


Cuong said although shipments to Europe represent only 7 per cent of the country's total fisheries export revenue, such recognition of quality control will enable exporters to enter other markets.


The seminar was organised by the National Committee for International Economic Integration and the European Chamber of Commerce, the European Commission delegation to Viet Nam and Mutrap.

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