February 6, 2004



Vietnam Seafood Industry To See 25% Jump in Sales


Vietnam's seafood industry will gain substantially from the bird flu outbreak, with seafood producers expected a 25% jump in sales.


"With the bird flu outbreak still ongoing, seafood would be the fast way to supplement the poultry shortfall," said the general secretary of the Vietnam Association of Seafood Exporters and Producers, Nguyen Huu Dung.


Vietnam on Thursday began implementing a nationwide ban on all sales of poultry and related products in a bid to contain the bird flu virus now sweeping 10 Asian countries. It's killed or prompted the culling of more than 14 million chickens and ducks in Vietnam.


With poultry - a mainstay of the Vietnamese diet - now banned, people are turning to alternatives like seafood, beef and pork.


"We expect the domestic (seafood) sales to increase at least 20 percent to 25 percent this year," Dung said.


Vietnam's largest catfish producer, Agifish, said foreign exports to Europe and Asia have also seen increases in the past few months, according to its director Ngo Phuoc Hau.


The European Union, along with Japan and other Asian countries, has banned the import of chickens from Thailand, the world's fourth-largest poultry producer, since the bird flu outbreak was reported there two weeks ago.


The windfall has been welcome for Vietnam's catfish industry, beset by recent legal battles with the United States.


The U.S. International Trade Commission last year upheld an earlier ruling by the Department of Commerce that Vietnam had unfairly dumped frozen catfish on the U.S. market and imposed taxes as high as 60 percent.


That move virtually halted Vietnamese catfish exports to the United States. But Hau said the expansion into European markets has completely made up for its U.S. losses.


Vietnam exported seafood worth US$2.2 billion last year. The domestic seafood market is a little larger than the export market, Dung said.

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