VietNamNet Bridge – Though seafood exports now have to undergo strict examination by Nafiqad (National Agro Forestry Fisheries Quality Assurance Department), a lot of export consignments still have been refused by the importers due to the high antibiotic residues.
Controlling antibiotic residues – a burden on exporters
More than 50 percent of the consignments have been found as having antibiotic residues from the aquaculture. Meanwhile, enterprises have affirmed that they have obeyed the current regulations on having samples tested before shipping and got Nafiqad’s certificates.
Seafood processing companies said that they have been tightening the control in the processing phase, but they cannot control all material sources. In fact, only several seafood companies have material areas themselves, while others have to collect materials from farmers or imports.
According to Deputy Chair of the Vietnam Association of Seafood Exporters and Producers (VASEP) Nguyen Huu Dung, Nafiqad is only in charge of examining the food hygiene at the processing phase. This means that the food hygiene supervision has been left open at other phases of the production line. No agency comes forward and takes responsibility for the material quality in aquaculture and during the transport.
Dung said that when he asked Nafiqad to supervise all the phases of the production chain, the agency said that this should be the responsibility of local agriculture departments. Meanwhile, the departments say they do not have enough officers and necessary conditions to undertake this work.
“A paradox exists that in the last many years, we have neglected the supervision over the input materials, while we have gathered all the strength to supervise the processing phase,” Dung commented.
Duong Ngoc Minh, General Director of Hung Vuong Seafood Company, said that when shrimp and fishe get diseases, farmers would have to treat them with medicine in order to protect their assets. Fishermen also have to use all possible measures to protect the aquatic products they catch during long sea voyage.
The moves cannot be controlled by enterprises, while the State still has not stipulated the regulations relating to the control over the aquaculture and material preservation.
Also according to Minh, 95 percent of the materials for shrimp processing comes from farmers. Therefore, it is difficult for enterprises to control the quality of shrimp products.
As for tra fish, enterprises now can control the quality of 50 percent of the total material output, because they can develop material areas themselves.
While enterprises and state management agencies still discuss the management measures, Phan Thanh Chien, General Director of Hai Viet Company, said that some Japanese shrimp importers have placed orders with Indonesian exporters instead of Vietnamese.
Shrimp consignments to Japan now have to undergo the tests to find four kinds of antibiotics. The total expenses enterprises have to pay for testing fees are 2000 dollars per container.
Chien said that the testing fees have been burdening export companies. “We understand that we have to try our best to control the export products’ quality. However, we hope the State would set up reasonable policies to settle the problem,” Chien said.
VASEP has confirmed that the testing fees enterprises have to pay have increased by twofold, which has made the situation worse. Besides, it takes more time, about 7-10 days to have export consignments tested and follow necessary procedures, which has weakened the competitiveness of Vietnamese exporters in the world market.
Seafood exporters have called on the watchdog agency to change the way it supervises the food hygiene, believing that with reasonable policies, the State would be able to control the material quality in growing areas, thus creating more favorable conditions for export companies.
Chien thinks that it would be better for Vietnam to apply Thai control mechanism, i.e. a government agency would be in charge of supervising the aquaculture.