Aquaculture for all

Major Export Opportunities for Seafood Chains in Asia

Sustainability Economics +1 more

GLOBAL - Asia is the European Unions largest supplier of seafood products. The last few years have seen a growth in the production and export of products such as tuna, white fish and prawns in some Asian countries. The CBI commissioned LEI Wageningen UR to explore whether CBI could support a number of specific Asian countries towards sustainable growth in their exports to the EU.

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LEI gathered data on the chains for a number of important seafood products in the following Asian countries: Viet Nam, Indonesia, the Philippines, Bangladesh, Pakistan and Sri Lanka. On the whole, there are good opportunities for increasing export in the product chains analysed, but such an increase would require further investment and continuing support.

Viet Nam

Vietnamese exporters of prawns and pangasius are already well on their way to securing a good position on the international market. However, the Vietnamese seafood industry is having difficulty responding to the growing demand for sustainably produced fish. Various Dutch organization, including IDH (the Sustainable Trade Initiative), are currently supporting producers and exporters in Vietnam in making their pangasius and prawn more sustainable. The ASC certification scheme for farmed fish is a good example. Vietnam also has potential for exporting lesser-known products such as oysters, muscles and cockles, which are becoming increasingly popular in the EU.


Indonesia boasts one of the largest seafood industries in the world. The most significant growth potential in terms of aquaculture products comes from improving productivity and lowering the cost price. With regard to capture fisheries, the biggest challenge is to find ways of retaining quality after fish are caught (e.g. better refrigeration and storage facilities). The food safety of Indonesian seafood products is another point of special attention. In addition to the seafood products exported by Indonesia, processed seaweed has huge growth potential as a major export product that can be used as raw material for a variety of products.

The Philippines

The Philippines is an important producer and exporter of captured tuna. However, production from aquaculture has stagnated and Black Tiger prawns are now the only product being exported to Europe. Exporters of prawns are finding it difficult to obtain EU certification. And those that do manage to obtain certification to supply prawns to the EU often are unable to export at competitive prices. The Philippines will have to find a way of helping exporters to satisfy the European regulations and legislation. The Philippine seaweed sector is strong, but under threat of competition from China and, increasingly, Indonesia. The sector needs to increase domestic seaweed production as well as become more competitive in order to survive.


The study showed that the greatest potential is in farmed prawns rather than the naturally sourced variety. Bangladesh traditionally focuses on the European rather than the American and Japanese markets, largely because of the low (and subsidised) price of farmed prawns. Bangladesh can stimulate export by improving product quality and the infrastructure of its prawn sector. Suppliers of fish such as tilapia and pangasius tend to focus on the domestic market. Fish is the main source of animal protein for the Bangladeshi population.


Although sanctions have had a negative impact on Pakistans seafood exports over the last years, Pakistani seafood products have good export potential. Pakistan has a number of commercially viable products. Despite support the Pakistani government received to help the seafood industry satisfy European regulations and legislation, exports to the EU are not expected to rise in the foreseeable future. Export figures prior to the sanctions show good potential for supplying Pakistani prawns to the Belgian, German and Dutch markets and fish to the English market. If the Pakistani government manages to guarantee sustainability, food safety and product quality, Pakistan could become a more important supplier to the European market.

Sri Lanka

Current export levels from Sri Lanka are low in comparison with other Asian countries. In addition, the share of seafood products actually exported is low. The Sri Lankan government intends to boost the fishing industry over the next 10 years by expanding its fleet and increasing production. LEI has advised Sri Lanka to focus on high-quality niche markets such as tuna or sustainably produced prawns, and to take the ecological and social consequences of growth in the seafood industry into account.