Since early this year, Japan has surpassed the EU in mollusc imports to become one of the leading importers of Vietnamese cuttlefish and octopus.
According to the Vietnam Association of Seafood Exporters and Processors (VASEP), Vietnam’s mollusc exports earned more than US$130 million in the first quarter of this year, up 19 percent over the same period last year. Cuttlefish and octopus made up 87 percent of the country’s total mollusc export value at US$113.3 million, an increase of 25.4 percent.
In March 2012, Vietnam’s mollusc exports hit nearly US$54 million, a 35 percent rise over March last year. This period experienced the highest growth in mollusc exports among Vietnam’s major seafood exports such as shrimp, tra fish and tuna.
Vietnamese molluscs are much sought after by foreign consumers which are indicated by the growth in export volume for March compared to the previous two months.
In the first quarter of this year, the value of Japan's mollusc imports from Vietnam rose 58.6 percent, the highest among the country's three major importers.
Vietnamese cuttlefish and octopus exports to Japan are also showing signs of recovery. Exports to this market in March soared 40 percent over February.
The Republic of Korea (RoK) is Vietnam's biggest export market for all types of molluscs, with imports reaching US$35 million in the first quarter of 2012, up 96 percent over the same quarter last year and accounting for 31 percent of Vietnam’s total export volume. However, the export value of bi-valve molluscs fell by 11.2 percent against the previous corresponding period. In March 2012 alone, products exported to the RoK posted high growth of 43 percent.
Despite facing strict regulations, the EU remains a key market for Vietnamese seafood, especially molluscs.
The public debt crisis in Europe has enabled Vietnam to increase its seafood exports to the EU market, particularly molluscs.
In the first three months of 2012, Vietnam maintained steady export growth to the EU with cuttlefish, octopus and bivalve exports rising 10.7 percent and bi-valve exports increasing 15.1 percent. Among EU markets, Vietnamese exports to France have shown high growth of 154 percent for cuttlefish and octopus and 617.2 percent for bi-valve molluscs.
Mollusc processors say, in order to boost exports, Vietnamese businesses need to learn more about consumer tastes, the consumption power of import markets, improve their product designs and offer reasonable prices for different markets.
The Vietnamese trade counselor to the EU says many Vietnamese agricultural, aquatic and garment and textile products have been readily accepted by EU partners.
However, this year the EU has changed its preferences for developing countries and imposed stricter regulations on animals and plant products. The EU is also drafting regulations requiring labels on products. Because of this, Vietnamese businesses should study the new regulations carefully so they can increase exports to the EU market.
Material resources are a hard nut to crack for mollusc exporters because it is difficult to seek material resources from domestic exploitation due to ever-increasing production costs and, additionally, the rising costs of sea transportation have greatly affected Vietnam’s exports to Europe and the US.
Processors now have to import material resources from other countries as domestic resources are failing to meet their demands. The thorny problem for exporters is to find ways to offer prices that are acceptable to foreign partners while the price of input materials remains high.