VietNamNet Birdge – Vietnam’s catfish has to satisfy a series of requirements set up by import countries to reach out to foreign consumers.


In late November 2012, the World Wildlife Fund (WWF) granted ASC certificates, a new kind of certificate in the seafood industry, to six Vietnamese seafood companies.

With the certificates, the six enterprises have been recognized that their farming process minimize the negative impacts on the environment, bad influences to workers’ health and to the community.

The Ministry of Agriculture and Rural Development (MARD) has committed that over 50 percent of seafood companies would have ASC by 2015 to boost Vietnam’s catfish exports to the world.

Two years ago, Vietnam had to struggle hard to meet ASC standards. At that time, Vietnam’s catfish was favored in many big markets in the world, including the US and European countries. WWF, publishing a report about Vietnam’s catfish, put the fish onto the red list, which means the list of the aquatic creatures it suggests consumers not to eat.

The WWF’s document on consumption guidance was then distributed in Germany, Belgium, Norway, Switzerland, Austria and Denmark. This meant that Vietnam’s catfish was in the danger of getting boycotted in European countries.

There were violent arguments between Vietnam and WWF at that time about the catfish. However, the problem was only settled when Vietnam had to recognize the ASC standards of WWF in return for the withdrawal of catfish from the red list.

The “victory” of WWF means that from now on, Vietnam has to have ASC certificates if it wants to enter the European market. This then raised a worry that any organizations can impose their standards on Vietnam’s catfish. Vietnamese farmers and seafood exporters don’t know what more standards they would have to satisfy, besides the ASC.

According to Dr Nguyen Huu Dung, Deputy Chair of the Vietnam Association of Seafood Exporters and Producers (VASEP), there exist a lot of standard systems set up by non-government organizations, such as BAP, GlobalGAP, MSC, MetroGAP, ASC, IFORM, SQF.

Besides, some retail chains and importers have also imposed their own requirements. The retail chains, which have influences on the market, state that they would only import the Vietnamese products, if the products can meet their own requirements.

The noteworthy thing is that the sets of standards imposed by the organizations all have been drawn up based on the FAO (Food and Agriculture Organization) which comprises of four basic issues: food safety, health of livestock, environment protection and social responsibility.

The sets of standards cost Vietnamese enterprises much money and time. However, they have no other choice than striving to have the certificates, and know they would have no opportunity to penetrate the import markets.

European market now requires GlobalGAP certificate, ASC, the US requires GAA, while the catfish needs to have VietGAP in order to be sold in the domestic market.

Duong Ngoc Minh, General Director of the Hung Vuong Seafood Company in HCM City, one of the six enterprises which have got ASC certificates, also complained that it is too costly to apply international standards in the aquaculture and processing.

One needs to spend US$100,000 at least to build up the procedure to meet the ASC standards, and $12,000 a year to get the licenses renewed.

Minh’s enterprise now also applies GlobalGAP, a “passport” for its products to enter the European market. In order to keep the passport, Hung Vuong has to pay $6,000 in fee after spending big money to build up the procedure for GlobalGAP application.