Seafood sector asked to brace for rising quality demand

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Vietnam seafood farmers need to change their methods as customers have become more serious about clean and safe products, experts said at a conference Sunday.


The EU market accounts for nearly 26 percent of the US$4.1-billion export turnover of Vietnamese seafood last year, said Nguyen Xuan Khoi, a director at Intertek Vietnam, which is part of a global laboratory network providing testing and inspection services.


"But EU is a choosy market that has a lot of strict demands on food safety and hygiene.


"EU customers not only study carefully the conditions at the producers and traders but they want to know details about the product's origins such as where it was bred or caught, what was it fed, how was it taken care of and what the environment was like during the breeding time," Khoi said.


Thus the Europeans would choose to buy from processors and traders that own a good system where many factors affecting the safety and hygiene of the products can be monitored closely, he said.


Khoi was speaking at a conference titled "Vietnamese seafood: Potentials for development and integration", organized in the Mekong Delta's Can Tho City as part of the Vietnam Seafood Festival 2010.


The EU starting January 1 issued strict regulations against IUU (illegal, unreported and unregulated) fishing. And it also insisted that aquaculture products meet Global GAP (Good Agricultural Practice) standards.


Vietnam as of now has only one prawn farm area and four catfish farm areas that meet the standard, Khoi said.


He said it's hard for Vietnam seafood farmers, most of them in the Mekong Delta, to obtain the certification. They are operating on a small scale and do not have control over clean water supply or diseases.


Luong Le Phuong, deputy minister of Agriculture and Rural Development, said at the conference that local farmers have become used to doing small things and not connecting with each other or with processors.


Flavio Corsin, a seafood expert, said farmers will receive greater benefits if they do their business in an environmentally-friendly  way.


The trend these days is that consumers are willing to pay more to receive safe products, Corsin said.


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