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Seafood exports: urgent measures hoped to remedy situation

VIET NAM - Following the Japanese Ambassador's letter to Minister of Fisheries Ta Quang Ngoc, regarding the possibility that Vietnamese seafood exports to Japan could be stopped, the Vietnam Association of Seafood Exporters and Producers (VASEP) requested heavy punishment of enterprises that have exported unsafe consignments.

After a meeting of VASEP’s members on July 3, association Chairman Tran Thien Hai sent a notice to the Minister of Fisheries, declaring a state of emergency for seafood exports and proposing stricter control over exports to Japan.

VASEP has asked the Ministry of Fisheries to instruct the National Fisheries Quality Assurance and Veterinary Directorate (Nafiqaved) to strictly control all export consignments from enterprises that still cannot assure the quality of their exports to find chloramphenicol and AOZ derivatives.

VASEP has also asked the ministry to stop the issue of export licences to enterprises which have had many consignments of exports discovered as containing antibiotics residues. The suspension would last one to six months, depending on the seriousness of the violations.

However, Mr Hai said that the application of the urgent measures would not help settle the problem of antibiotic residues to the root. In order to retain the Japanese market, it is necessary to strengthen control over the antibiotic residues in seafood materials before processing.

Especially, Mr Hai said that state agencies should tightly control consignments to be exported by trading companies (which do not have processing workshops). Moreover, Mr Hai says it is necessary to inspect ship owners, farmers, material collecting agents, agents and shops that sell chemicals and veterinary drugs, as well as establishments processing foodstuffs for aquaculture; individuals and establishments that use prohibited antibiotics must be punished heavily, while establishments that cannot meet the requirements for food hygiene must have their licences revoked.

According to VASEP, by the end of May 2007, Vietnam had exported 39,090 tonnes of seafood, worth $240mil. In the first six months of the year, some 6,000 seafood consignments were shipped to Japan, 94 of which, or 1.6% of total exports, were found by Japanese authorities as containing prohibited substances.

Shrimp was the export item shipped to Japan in the period most often found containing prohibited substance residues, totalling 54 consignments of exports. In addition, prohibited substances were found in 29 consignments of mixed seafood, 6 consignments of spring rolls, and 6 consignments of cuttlefish. These products mainly had chloramphenicol (55 consignments), nitrofurans derivatives (23 consignments, including 17 consignments of AOZ and 6 consignments of SEM).

48 Vietnamese enterprises had their exporters receive warnings from Japanese authorities, 2 of which had more than four warned consignments, 10 enterprises had more than 3 warned consignments, 13 enterprises had more than 2 warned consignments, and 23 enterprises had one warned consignment.

In 2006, total export turnover to Japan was more than $1bil. If Japan shuts the door on Vietnam’s seafood, this would be a tragedy, VASEP has warned.

Regarding the move by the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) to examine 100% of Chinese farmed seafood imports, VASEP said this should be seen as both a challenge and opportunity for Vietnamese seafood. Vietnamese exporters will have more opportunities with the US market if fewer imports are permitted from China.

When asked how Vietnam should deal with material imports from China, Nguyen Tu Cuong, Head of Nafiqaved, told VietNamNet that the agency would thoroughly examine material imports. However, Mr Cuong said that imports from China were not abundant.

the Fish Site Editor

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