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Upbeat shrimp exports amid COVID-19

While seafood exports declined sharply in the first quarter due to the COVID-19, shrimp exports have managed to post slight growth.

upbeat shrimp exports amid covid 19
VASEP believes the demand for seafood, including shrimp, will bounce back in post-pandemic times

The latest preliminary figures by the Vietnam General Department of Customs show that Vietnam reaped more than $1.61 billion in total seafood export in the first quarter of this year, down 9.9 per cent compared to the corresponding period in 2019.

The figure for March alone, however, jumped by 25.5 per cent on-month to reach nearly $629 million, but was still down 8 per cent compared to a year ago.

Statistics by the Vietnam Association of Seafood Exporters and Producers (VASEP) show that the country counted $628.6 million in shrimp exports in the first three months, up 1.8 per cent on-year.

Of this, export value to the US jumped 18.2 per cent during the period to $115.5 million, turning the US into Vietnam’s second-largest shirmp importer, only behind Japan which imported nearly $132 million of shrimp from Vietnam, up 8.4 per cent.

Forecasting the trend of shrimp export price and export prospects in the time ahead, Ho Quoc Luc, chairman of privately-held Sao Ta Food JSC (FMC) presented two development scenarios.

First, if the coronavirus (COVID-19) outbreak drags on, leading to lower demand, prices would go down slighly only on account of lower supply.

Second, if Vietnam succeeds in bringing COVID-19 under control in the second quarter, the demand for shirmp could resume, leading to rising export prices.

“Albeit the situation remains unpredictable, the export price of shrimp will likely be stable amidst diminishing supplies. I believe the upward trend would prevail in the near future,” Luc said.

FMC’s figures show that in February alone, the company exported 937 tonnes of processed shrimp products, with $10.7 million in export value.

To stay ahead of the curve when the global demand for shirmp rebounds after the pandemic is over and to cash in on rising exports to the EU after the landmark EU-Vietnam Free Trade Agreement (EVFTA) comes into force in the near future, the FMC leader said the company will boost shrimp output in the upcoming months.

Le Van Diep, board member and deputy general director of Minh Phu Seafood Corporation – one of Vietnam’s largest shrimp producers – was of the mindset that the impact of the pandemic on shrimp exports would not be significant, and that as the major shrimp harvest season is months ahead, first-quarter shrimp busisness was not too critical.

“The main season usually runs from late June to the end of December. If COVID-19 is reined in by then, the shrimp sector will not be much affected. By contrast, if the pandemic will still haunt major export markets, exports will likely continue to be difficult, even if Vietnam succeeds in containing the pandemic,” Diep said.

A VASEP representative noted that as shrimp belongs to the essential food group with affordable price, consumer demand remains stable. Besides, as the pandemic situation in China and South Korea – two of the largest shrimp importers – shows signs of recovery and several other major shrimp importers are applying stimulus measures, the output market for shrimp proves encouraging.

“Local shrimp exporters need to work on ensuring sufficient supply and care about quality to be able to take advanage of higher export prices when the demand bounces back in the post-pandemic period,” the source added. VIR

Minh Thuy

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