February 20, 2014


Vietnam's fish exports face challenges due to new US farm bill



Due to the US' new 2014 farm bill, Vietnam's catfish (tra) exporters will face great difficulties, possibly from 2015 onwards.


However, Truong Dinh Hoe, general secretary of the Vietnam Association of Seafood Exporters and Producers (VASEP), said that the law would not immediately affect Vietnam's tra shipments.


The USDA would need 60 days from the date of the bill signed into law on February 7 to issue regulations on functions and duties of agencies mentioned in the law, Hoe said.


Instead of the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA), the law tasks USDA with supervising catfish, including tra and basa fish from Vietnam. The FDA has long been responsible for this role but it focuses solely on food safety and hygiene issues.


The USDA will also monitor fish farms to determine whether they meet its standards before it allows the fish from those farms to enter the American market.


The law also puts Vietnamese tra and basa fish into a catfish inspection programme. The programme could only start after all guidance documents are made available, meaning that Vietnam's fish exports to America would not suffer an immediate impact from the law, Hoe noted, adding the impact might be felt by 2015.


The term, which is considered directly affecting Vietnam's tra fish exports, requires that meat, fish and egg products imported into the US should have the labels of farming and slaughtering origins as well as slaughtering methods.


At the commercial counsellor conference held in Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam, two months ago, Vietnamese commercial counsellor in the US, Dao Tran Nhan, said that it would take Vietnam five to seven years to upgrade the production and processing process, in order to have its quality equivalent to that of US farming, production and processing facilities in compliance with the new farm bill.


In a statement on its website, the Vietnamese Embassy in the US voices objections, saying that the US Congress has ignored free and equal trade with developing countries in Asia. According to the embassy, the catfish inspection programme is irrational as it is intended to prevent Vietnamese fish from entering the US market.


Agricultural products are among the important products of the two-way trade between Vietnam and the US.

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