Vietnamese catfish exporters need to unite as exports face trade barriers

Analysts say that Vietnamese catfish exporters are willing to ‘fight to the death’, but they refuse to band together to discuss solutions to settle common problems.

Duong Ngoc Minh, called the Catfish King, chair of Hung Vuong JSC, deputy chair of VASEP (Vietnam Association of Seafood Exporters and Producers ) and chair of the Fresh Water Fish Committee, was absent at the annual conference of VASEP which took place on August 28 in HCMC.

A VASEP report showed that Minh did not come to all the meetings of the Fresh Water Fish Committee and did not give opinions about solutions to help settle the problems of the catfish industry. The VASEP Office also found it difficult to contact Minh when necessary.

At the conference, Truong Thi Le Khanh, chair of Vinh Hoan Seafood JSC, was introduced as the new chair of the Fresh Water Fish Committee.

Khanh recalled the days in 1989, when one importer, receiving the first consignment, admitted that it was the best white-meat fish consignment from anywhere in the world it had received.

After a long period of hot development, Vietnam’s catfish now has a poor reputation and faces trade barriers.

Vietnam’s catfish industry has also had bad press in recent months. Carrefour, the largest retail group in Europe, announced that it would stop the sale of Vietnamese catfish in Spain, Italy and France.

While rivals have been following well-organized campaigns to fight against Vietnamese catfish, Vietnam has reacted weakly, Khanh said.

Khanh spent a working visit in Spain, where Vietnam’s catfish has been attacked by a large media campaign, and found that sales in the market had dropped by 67 percent.

VASEP now is carrying out campaigns to popularize Vietnamese catfish in the EU market to consolidate consumers’ confidence. It has invited Spanish press to Vietnam to visit catfish farms and processing factories.

Khanh believes that it is also necessary to post ads on social networks which attract a high number of viewers and in local newspapers, so that consumers have a better understanding about Vietnam’s catfish.

Nguyen Thi Hong Minh, former Deputy Minister of Fisheries, now honorary chair of VASEP, said she likes Norwegian salmon model very much which brings big success to the country, but she regretted that she failed to persuade the government to set up a market development fund.

She said catfish companies don’t need money but need a reasonable policy and the state’s clear view on what they can and cannot do to run the fund, while avoiding the accusation of countervailing.

Minh pointed out that Vietnam’s catfish has suffered bad press because of stiff competition among Vietnamese businesses which try to slash export prices to scramble for clients.


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