VIETRADE – In the first half of this year, shrimp output reached 191,000 tones. The Vietnam Seafood Exporters and Processors early this month forecast that Vietnamese shrimp exports would top US$3 billion this year, after achieving $1.4 billion in the year’s first half (VNS). The Minister of Agriculture and Rural Development Nguyễn Xuân Cường said that it was necessary to identify shrimp as a national strategic export product to boost farming, enhance quality and build a globally-recognized Vietnamese shrimp brand (VNS). At a recent conference which gathered shrimp producers and processors from 28 coastal provinces and cities, Cường said that Vietnam had a large potential for shrimp production. However, scattered farming, shortage of quality raw materials together with the lack of a comprehensive development strategy and value chain were blocking its potential, Cường said. In addition, boosting shrimp farming turns out to be a good choice for Vietnam’s agricultural production as it could turn the salt intrusion in the Cuu Long (Mekong) River Delta into an opportunity. He urged local authorities to enhance management towards all shrimp farming stages, from breeding to disease prevention, while shrimp farmers apply new farming techniques and technologies to improve shrimp quality.
Concern over Food Safety and Aquaculture
By and large, all seafood, whether caught in the open ocean or aquacultured, is considered some of the most safe and nutritious food available. However, there are food safety hazards associated with seafood and the hazards for raw aquaculture products are different than those for raw seafood caught in the open ocean. The two main hazards associated with imported aquacultured products consumed are residues of unapproved drugs and contamination from pathogens, such as Salmonella. The origins of these hazards are unique to aquacultured raw products because they usually originate at the farm site and may remain in or on the product through the normal washing, sorting and packing that is done at the primary processing step.
Antibiotics and certain chemicals (e.g., malachite green, a toxic chemical primarily designed to be a dye that is used, among other things, to treat bacterial infections in fish) are commonly used in aquaculture mainly for therapeutic purposes. They are also used as prophylactic agents to help avoid bacterial or fungal outbreaks. Legitimate public health concerns exist about the use of unapproved or misused drug products in aquaculture. One concern is the risk of exposing consumers to potential or suspected carcinogens such as malachite green. Another is the presence of antibiotics that can be harmful at very low levels to susceptible individuals. An example of this is the antibiotic chloramphenicol, which has been linked to human aplastic anemia and has been detected in various aquacultured products from exporting countries.
Meet the standards of the World Organization for Animal Health
Vietnam’s Ministry of Agriculture and Rural Development will therefore monitor the production chain of shrimp for export as it develops farms to the standards of the World Organization for Animal Health and countries importing the product. The ministry will direct the implementation of a national plan on monitoring diseases on shrimp for export in the 2017-2020 period. The People’s Committees of major shrimp producing localities have been asked to make plans and allocate capital for the application of measures to prevent shrimp diseases to create low-risk areas and shrimp farms with production chain meeting safety requirements. It targets by end 2017 at least 10% of breeding shrimp farms producing over 1 billion of post larval shrimp each year will be recognized as safe farms.
At the same time, the plan also sets a goal of at least one farm recognized to have production chain meeting OIE safety standards. The OIE Aquatic Animal Health Code (the Aquatic Code) sets out standards for the improvement of aquatic animal health and welfare of farmed fish worldwide, and for safe international trade in aquatic animals (amphibians, crustaceans, fish and molluscs) and their products. The health measures in the Aquatic Code should be used by the Competent Authorities of importing and exporting countries for early detection, reporting and control of agents pathogenic to aquatic animals and to prevent their transfer via international trade in aquatic animals and their products, while avoiding unjustified sanitary barriers to trade. The World Trade Organization (WTO) Agreement on the Application of Sanitary and Phytosanitary Measures (SPS Agreement) formally reorganize the role of the OIE as the international standard setting organization for animal health and zoonotic diseases. The Aquatic Code includes a User’s Guide which is designed to help Competent Authorities and other interested parties use the Aquatic Code. The regulations of the OIE and importing countries will also be popularized among enterprises, along with guidelines to reach the standards.
Quality breeding shrimp is the decisive factor for success
According to Nguyễn Hoàng Anh, president of Binh Thuan Province Shrimp Association, the quality of breeding shrimp will decide up to 70 per cent of the output of shrimp farming. However, failure in controlling the origin and quality of breeding shrimp as well as managing the uses of chemicals was badly affecting shrimp quality. Industry experts said that developing breeding shrimp became critical to boosting shrimp farming, adding that heavy reliance on imported breeding shrimp existed as a major challenge. VASEP proposed that the Ministry of Agriculture and Rural Development attach greater attention to shrimp breading to ensure quality and promote domestic breading. Vietnam currently needed around 130 billion breeding shrimp every year, but local breeding could meet only 40 per cent of the demand. Especially, farming of white leg shrimp remained heavily reliant on imported breeding shrimp, mainly from the US, Singapore, Thailand and Mexico. Statistics from the Directorate of Fisheries showed that as of June, Vietnam had 1,750 giant tiger prawn breeding farms and another 510 white-leg shrimp breeding farms.