06:00 | 22/05/2020 Society
(VEN) - The Covid-19 pandemic has seriously affected fishery exports to major markets and the industry is closely eyeing global trends to prepare plans for restoring production and exports.
The Ministry of Agriculture and Rural Development’s Directorate of Fisheries said fishery output reached more than 1.5 million tonnes in the first quarter of this year, up two percent from the same period of 2019. This included 841,000 tonnes of seafood catch (up 1.9 percent) and 662,000 tonnes of aquaculture products (up 2.1 percent).
However, seafood exports totaled US$1.54 billion, down 14.2 percent compared to the same period of 2019. While the decrease is attributed to dropping sales to China, the Republic of Korea (RoK) and the EU, exports to Japan, the US, Canada and Russia kept growing. Sales to Canada and Russia soared 10.1 and 22 percent, respectively.
Directorate of Fisheries Director General Tran Dinh Luan said that in the first quarter of this year, the fisheries sector not only coped with the Covid-19 pandemic but also drought and saltwater intrusion in the Mekong Delta - the biggest seafood production and export center in Vietnam.
Truong Dinh Hoe, General Secretary of the Vietnam Association of Seafood Exporters and Producers (VASEP) said the price of shrimp and Tra fish has decreased because farmers harvested products earlier than usual, fearing that prices might fall. A number of seafood processors temporarily stopped purchasing raw materials after orders were delayed or canceled. They have not signed new orders, while their warehouses are full. If farmers decrease or stop aquaculture, there will be raw material shortages later this year when the pandemic is expected to be under control and the demand for seafood increases again.
The forecast for the next several months is not promising due to the rolling impact of the pandemic, and small companies will probably have to close due to capital shortage.
Strengthening preservation and processing
A United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization’s (FAO) report on the Covid-19 pandemic’s impact on seafood supply chains shows that the fisheries industry is indirectly affected by changing consumer needs, market access and logistics services related to transportation and border restrictions. This will adversely affect the livelihoods of anglers and the entire seafood supply chain.
The FAO has recommended government measures to sustain the aquaculture industry’s operations. These include providing access to preferential loans, crop insurance, electricity prices and tax obligations; providing fish farmers with increased access to credit and microfinance programs at reduced interest rates, and allowing them to repay debts on a flexible basis; writing off loans used for salary payment and low-interest loans; and suspending payment of property taxes and mortgage fees.
The FAO has also recommended that governments ensure access to supply chains by seafood producers and exporters, for example using temporary seafood warehouses. The agency is also urging that farmers and processors coordinate to adjust supply in the domestic market and prepare products for export.
According to VASEP, during the Covid-19 pandemic, consumers prefer buying frozen, canned and dried seafood that can be stored for a long time, and processed and semi-processed products at low to medium prices. Restaurant demand for fresh seafood has plummeted, a trend expected to continue in most markets even after the pandemic is controlled. Directorate of Fisheries Director General Tran Dinh Luan said his agency would continue to closely monitor the market and prepare appropriate directions for production development. The directorate will also encourage connectivity between farmers and businesses in the production, purchase, processing and supply chain, aiming to ensure supply-demand balance, he said.
The directorate has recommended that localities review crop and production plans to reach growth targets. Once social distancing ends, the Ministry of Agriculture and Rural Development will hold meetings with localities, focusing on shrimp, Tra fish and fishing-related issues. The goal is for the ministry and localities to work together in preparing the best plans to help anglers and businesses restore production and sales in both domestic and foreign markets.
Directorate of Fisheries Director General Tran Dinh Luan:
In the coming months, the demand for importing Tra fish and other seafood products will probably be as stable as in
previous years. There is large demand for canned tuna (more than 200,000 tonnes per year) for supermarkets.