Phu Quoc fish sauce wins Vietnam's first origin recognition from EU

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Owner of a fish sauce producing firm in Phu Quoc checks a barrel in which fish and salt are left to ferment.

Fish sauce from Phu Quoc island has become Vietnam's first product to qualify for the European Union's Protected Designation of Origin.

Vietnam News Agency reports that the European Commission signed the decision on October 8, and it will take effect in 21 days' time.

Jean-Jacques Bouflet, Minister Counselor, Head of Trade & Economic Affairs of the EU Delegation to Vietnam, told Tuoi Tre newspaper that the recognition promises a new big market for the fish sauce. 

Phu Quoc fish sauce is famous in Vietnam but few people outside knew about it, he said, and now it is accessible to around 500 million people in Europe who would understand that it has the distinctive quality and characteristics of Phu Quoc island.

They may not buy the sauce immediately since that depends on consumption habits and Vietnam's marketing efforts, but the product would be available at supermarkets across the continent instead of just ones meant for the Asian community, he said.

Protected Designation of Origin status is conferred on products whose entire production happens in a specific area, place, or country and whose quality or properties are significantly or exclusively determined by the geographical environment, including natural and human factors.

The recognition makes the fish sauce the 11th such product from outside Europe, after Colombian coffee, Darjeeling tea from India, and eight products from China.

Phu Quoc island lies off Kien Giang Province, and is home to the country's most famous fish sauce, which is made by fermenting fish, usually anchovies, with sea salt and used as a condiment in various cuisines.

The Phu Quoc Fish Sauce Association submitted its application in 2009 after many foreign firms produced fake Phu Quoc fish sauce and sold it in the EU.

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Bouflet said the producers had to prove that theirs stand out from other fish sauce products.

It is a recognition for the whole community of fish sauce producers on the island, he said.

Vietnam should try the same for its coffee, given that it is the world's second largest coffee exporter.

Producers in Buon Ma Thuot town in the Central Highlands, for instance, should be protected so that they can develop their brand, the counselor said.

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