SEAFOODNEWS.COM [Vietnam News Brief Service] September 5, 2017

China is a lucrative market for Vietnamese seafood products thanks to its large population but it is also an unstable market requiring Vietnamese exporters to be cautious, said experts at a seminar on seafood exports held in Ho Chi Minh City on Aug 30.

At a workshop themed “China Seafood Market: Potential for Vietnam’s Suppliers,” Ms. Le Hang from the Vietnam Association of Seafood Exporters and Producers (VASEP) said Vietnam’s seafood exports to China soared to $860 million last year from $152 million in 2007.

Shrimp and pangasius saw the strongest increase, but continue to have the potential for double-digit growth rate in the coming years, she said. Chinese are increasingly eating more fish than meat, while local output from aquaculture and fishing is shrinking, offering Vietnamese exporters a good opportunity, she noted.

However, the market also has risks, she warned, noting that China could tighten hygiene, food safety and quarantine regulations.

Vietnamese firms are advised not to sell through the border with China and only supply goods after getting the payment, other participants said.

Yang Yong, chairman of GuangZhou Nutriera Biotechnology Co. Ltd., said Chinese consumers are increasingly looking at product quality, safety and convenience.

Brands are one of the key factors for them in choosing a product, and they are willing to pay 20%-30% more, he said, urging Vietnamese exporters to increase processing to make products more convenient or nutritious for Chinese consumers.

Chinese consumers’ tastes change rapidly and so producers must keep a close eye on the market to come up with appropriate products, participants said.

Vietnamese companies should export products that meet the U.S. and Japanese standards and have strategies to build their brands in China, said Nguyen Phu Hoa, vice head of the Foreign Trade Department under the Ministry of Industry and Trade.

Vietnam earned $5.13 billion from seafood exports in the first eight months of this year, up 18.1% from the same period last year. The U.S., Japan, China, and South Korea were leading importers of Vietnamese seafood in the first seven months of this year, according to the Ministry of Agriculture and Rural Development.

Export value to China showed the biggest increase of 57.2%, followed by Japan-30.8%, the UK-30.1%, South Korea-28.8%, the Netherlands-25.3% and Canada-20.7%.

Vietnam’s seafood exports may rise 14% on year to hit $8 billion this year, according to VASEP.