Aquaculture for all

Technical Barriers Leading to Shrimp Export Refusal

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VIET NAM - According to the Industry and Trade Department of Ca Mau, in one of the biggest seafood export localities, which gathers the biggest names in the seafood industry, for instance, Minh Phu and Phu Cuong, five seafood companies have their 159 tons of exports refused by May 2013, worth $3.65 million tons.

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VietnamNetBridge reports that the consignments - mainly frozen processed shrimp - were refused because they contained antibiotic residues higher than the levels allowed by countries importing them.

Nafiquad, the agency in charge of farm, forestry and seafood product quality, has reported that in tyhe month of May, Japanese agencies discovered Ethoxyquin and Trifluralin residues to be higher than the allowed levels in the exports of three more Vietnamese enterprises.

After warnings were issued by the import countries in January and February of this year, the situation improved in the following months (no refusal in March and only one case in April). However, things seemed to take a downward spiral in May.

Japan is Viet Nam's leading shrimp market. In 2012, the country installed the Ethoxyquin barrier after the Trifluralin barrier. Ethoxyquin is an antioxidant existing in the shrimp feed, while Trifluralin is a substance to clear seaweed.

The seafood export turnover to Japan by mid-May 2013 was US$353 million, indicating a 2.5 per cent fall compared to the same period last year.

According to Nguyen Nhu Tiep, an official of Nafiqad, in May 2013, Japan officially removed the Trifluralin examination on 100 per cent of imports from Viet Nam after three years of applying the technical barrier.

The Vietnamese government has urged Japan to consider removing the Ethoxyquin examination on seafood imports.

According to Mr Tiep, the Japanese competent agencies have asked Viet Nam to provide reports and prove that it now applies necessary measures to control the indexes for food safety. "If they find it reasonable, they would remove the strict examination mechanism," he said.

The "strict examination" alludes to the fact that there is no opportunity for Vietnamese enterprises to export products to Japan, because, in the words of an exporter in Soc Trang province, "Once they (the agencies of the import countries) examine the imports, all the products will have problems."

Vietnamese enterprises have been doing everything they can to minimize the risks and reduce the number of refused consignments. They have to spend more money to control the amount of antibiotic residues, preservatives and input materials. Most significantly, they have to hire more workers to harshly examine the exports before shipping. However, risks still exist.

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