The Middle East includes 16 countries (Saudi Arabia, Bahrain, Qatar, Kuwait, Jordan, Iran, Iraq, Israel, Lebanon, Oman, Palestine, Turkey, UAE, Syria, Yemen and Egypt). With a surface of seven million square meters, the region is home to 380 million of people and possesses various natural resources. It is a high-demand market for imported products, some of which are listed as Viet Nam's key export items. Therefore, Vietnamese companies will have opportunities to boost trade with the Middle East.
According to the Vietnamese Ministry of Industry and Trade, in 2012, Viet Nam's seafood exports to the Middle East reached over US$4 billion, of which seafood products brought back US$193 million. Referring to statistics from Vietnamese Customs, pangasius sales to this destination was around US$185.9 million, representing 63 per cent of total earnings from seafood exports. Saudi Arabia was the leading importer in the region, followed by Egypt. Only five out of 16 countries reported an annual import value of over US$10 million.
According to The Viet Nam Assocation of Seafood Exporters and Producers (VASEP), Middle East countries’ typical weather conditions are not appropriate to produce agricultural products, including seafood; therefore, they have a very high demand for shrimp, pangasius, canned tuna, sardine, canned mackerel and dried fish products.
According to the International Trade Centre (ITC), in 2011 fish imports (HS03) into some Middle East countries got higher growth than that recorded in 2010. Saudi Arabia purchased US$310.1 million of seafood products, up 33 per cent; Palestine with US$11.3 million, up 50 per cent; Iran with US$75.8, up 31 per cent. The Middle East’s fish imports decreased due to current civil war in some countries, which made foreign exporters hesitant to send products to these markets.
Vietnamese seafood and, in particular, pangasius products have initially had position and prestige in the Middle East markets. Exports to some countries reported year-on-year growth.
Viet Nam was listed among the top five suppliers, in the frozen fish fillet segment, in some Middle East countries. It ranked fourth in Israel with an export value of US$13.2 million in 2012, up 95 per cent over that of 2011.
Over the years, Viet Nam was Lebanon’s leading partner with a proportion of 75 per cent in the country’ total pangasius purchase. In 2012, Viet Nam sold US$10.8 million of fish products to this destination, down 17.8 per cent on that of 2011.
In Turkey, Viet Nam ranked third among frozen fish fillet suppliers within the last four years. In 2012, exports to this country reached US$5.3 million, up 14 per cent from 2011. It is important to note that Viet Nam’s shares in Turkey’s frozen fish fillet segment increased considerably from 2 per cent in 2008 to 20 per cent in 2012.