|Processing shrimp for export at Sao Ta Food Joint Stock Company. Photo: L.T|
Prospects from two key products
The two main export seafood products of Vietnam, shrimp and pangasius, rose in March 2021. Specifically, shrimp exports, after increasing 16% in January, decreased 19% in February, in March they recovered with an increase of about 10%, reaching about US$270 million and by the end of the first quarter, shrimp export is estimated at US$646 million, up nearly 3% over the same period in 2020. Shrimp exports to the US, EU, China and some markets all decreased year-on-year, except for some CPTPP member countries that tend to increase shrimp imports as well as other seafood products of Vietnam.
According to Mr. Ho Quoc Luc, Chairman of Sao Ta Food Joint Stock Company, in the first quarter, processed shrimp for export of the unit reached 3,688 tons, an increase of 32% over the same period last year. The consumption of finished shrimp products was 3,850 tons, equal to 135% of the same period last year. General sales US$42.3 million (of which agricultural products were US$1.6 million), equal to 135% of the same period last year.
According to Mr. Luc, an issue affecting the profitability of the business is that international shipping costs have not improved and are too high. On the other hand, the harm from Covid-19 has caused a number of input costs of imported origin to increase sharply, such as costs of paper packaging, plastic packaging, energy, so that the profit is not inferior to the same period last year and is expected to accelerate when world shipping activities return to normal.
Similar to shrimp, pangasius exports to the US and some CPTPP markets such as Mexico, Australia and Canada increased while exports of this item to China declined sharply, and to the EU decreased slightly in the first two months of the year. Under the improvement of logistics in China, the export of pangasius and shrimp to China from March tended to be more positive. Therefore, after decreasing 5.5% in the first two months of the year, pangasius exports in March increased again with an increase of 11% to reach US$137 million. By the end of the first quarter, pangasius exports reached US$336 million, a slight increase of 0.6% over the same period in 2020. Among seafood products, there are squid; octopus and other products related to marine fish (surimi, canned fish, dried fish) showing positive export signals.
Forecasts of export increase in April
In addition to the two main products mentioned above, according to Ms. Le Hang, Deputy Director of VASEP.PRO Center, exporting squid and octopus to the European market is recovering well, partly thanks to tariff incentives from the EVFTA while exports to Korea decreased slightly. Octopus squid export in the first two months increased slightly by nearly 2% and continued to increase 8% in March to reach US$45 million, creating profit the export result in the first three months to US$112 million.
With the rise of many export products, seafood export value in March was estimated at US$685 million, bringing the seafood export value in the first three months to US$1.69 billion, up 3.3% over the same period of 2020. The United States, Japan, Korea and China are the top four import markets of Vietnamese seafood in the first two months of the year, accounting for 53.8% of the total seafood export value. In the first two months of the year, seafood export value increased in most markets, in which the market with the highest increase in value was Russia (+44.6%). Seafood export turnover in the first quarter is estimated at US$1.64 billion, up 3% over the same period in 2020.
According to Ms. Le Hang, in the first two months of the year, Vietnam’s seafood export activities were significantly affected by rising production costs and shortage of ships, lack of containers and skyrocketing freight charges, especially the freight to the US and EU.
Meanwhile, the difficult logistics problem is also clogging the main ports of China, along with the tightening inspection and control of coronavirus for imported seafood makes export of seafood more difficulties. The situation in the Chinese market tended to improve from mid-March, so seafood exports in March had better results.
After falling 10% in most markets in the first two months of the year, in March, tuna exports increased by 5% to US$55 million, bringing the results in the first three months to US$140 million, down 11% compared to the first quarter. The Covid-19 pandemic is still serious in many traditional markets of Vietnam, reducing the demand for some key seafood products but at the same time providing an opportunity for product lines with long shelf life and suitable price with the trend of income decline and economic decline in countries.
Therefore, the export of seafood products in dry products, canned foods, fish cakes, surimi has tended to increase, contributing to a brighter and more optimistic picture of seafood exports in the first quarter and the following quarters. It is forecasted that seafood exports to China in April and the coming months will recover stronger, as the country gradually resolves trade congestion at seaports and loosens procedures to control Covid-19 for imported seafood, especially frozen seafood. Shrimp and pangasius exports to China will grow again.
In addition, the US market will still have a positive impact on Vietnam’s seafood export results in the coming months, maintaining positive growth as in 2020 and the first months of the year. However, exporting shrimp to this market may not maintain strong growth as last year, but pangasius export tends to be better. However, the problem of high freight charges to Europe and America will continue to dominate seafood exports to these markets. Therefore, exports to the EU in general cannot recover in the next month.
From the current market situation, VASEP experts forecast that Vietnam’s seafood export in April is expected to increase by about 10% to US$680 million, bringing the total seafood export in the first four months of 2021 to US$2.32 billion, an increase of nearly 4% over the same period in 2020.