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Vietnamese Fish Meet US Farm Bill Barrier

VIET NAM - Vietnamese tra and basa catfish exporters may have another obstacle to overcome if the US 2008 Farm Bill is passed, according to the Viet Nam Association of Seafood Exporters and Producers (VASEP).

Nguyen Huu Dung, VASEP deputy chairman, said the US Department of Agriculture (USDA) had been compiling the 2008 Farm Bill to include regulations that would create obstacles for the import of tra and basa catfish from Viet Nam.

The farm law would change the US definition of catfish to include Vietnamese tra and basa catfish, and transfer the management of catfish imports from the US Food and Drug Administration (USFDA) to the US Department of Agriculture (USDA).

If the law comes into effect, Dung said that Vietnamese tra and basa catfish exports to the US would be controlled more closely, much like imported meat products. Currently, meat products from only 34 developed countries meet US meat standards.

The USDA will collect opinions on the 2008 Farm Bill in early 2009 and the law will go into effect 18 months after its approval.

This would put Viet Nam’s tra and basa catfish processing and export industry in danger, VASEP said.

The association has asked the Government, the Ministry of Agriculture and Rural Development and the Ministry of Industry and Trade to provide solutions to save the Vietnamese catfish processing and export industry, Dung said.

Tra and basa catfish are one of Viet Nam’s key exports, with billions of consumers in 100 countries and territories around the world.

Vietnamese tra and basa catfish exporters already face many obstacles to US exports, including 64 per cent anti-dumping taxes. The USDA had not allowed Vietnamese tra and basa catfish products exported to the US to have the world "catfish" on their labels, as they moved to protect their catfish industry.

Vietnamese tra exporters must instead use "pangasius" and "basa pangasius" on the labels of any products containing Vietnamese tra and basa catfish, respectively.

Viet Nam exported nearly 483,000 tonnes of tra and basa catfish in the first nine months of this year, bringing in US$1.081 billion, according to the Ministry of Agriculture and Rural Development (MARD).

In the first nine months of this year, tra and basa catfish exports increased by 52 per cent in value and 77 per cent in quantity, the highest growth rate of any aquaculture product.

Experts predict that the country will earn an average revenue of $150 million a month by the end of the year. The country’s catfish exports are expected to fetch $1.5 billion in 2008.

the Fish Site Editor

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