Domestic tuna exporters has seen the Middle East as an alternative market in a bid to move closer to this year’s US$524 million export target, 8% higher than a year earlier, after the European Commission (EC) has issued a "yellow card" warning to Vietnam.
During the first three quarters of this year, tuna exports nearly reached US$430 million up 21.2% against the same period last year. As a result, tuna exports are likely to surpass the set export target of roughly US$50 million. However, shrinking exports due to the European Union (EU)’s issuance of ‘yellow card’ has raised great concerns for other major importers. In these difficult circumstances, exporters have found a market that has huge potential to replace the demanding EU market.
According to Vietnam Customs, nine-month tuna exports to the US hit US$168.77 million, accounting for 39.3% of the total export revenue and up 16.8% over last year’s corresponding period. The US remained the leading consumer of Vietnamese tuna products. Processed and canned Vietnamese tuna products made up a large proportion of the tuna imported into the highly lucrative market.
Globefish reported that the import price of canned tuna averages US$4.5-5 per kg, which is higher than two years ago. The prices of products imported from Vietnam, Thailand and the Philippines are nearly equal and close to the average prices in the US.
Over the same period of time, frozen tuna fillet continued to be the key export product of domestic businesses to the EU, constituting 40% of total export value, trailed by canned tuna products at 32%. Germany, Italy and the Netherlands were the three largest EU importers of Vietnamese tuna.
In the three quarters of 2017, tuna exports to most EU countries increased when compared to the same period last year, for instance exports to Germany were up 38.3% and exports to the Netherlands saw an increase of 67.2%.
With an impressive export growth of 109.3% to almost US$35 million in the period, Israel gradually replaced ASEAN to become Vietnam’s third largest importer. Thailand, Vietnam and the Philippines are the biggest tuna suppliers of Israel, in which Israel imports a big volume of canned tuna products from Vietnam, making the country become the second largest exporter to Israel after Thailand. For Israel’s market segment of frozen tuna, Vietnam is dominating the Israeli market with hardly any significant rivals.
In the current climate that has seen exports to traditional markets such as the EU and the US grind to a halt, the Middle East, particularly Israel, has emerged as the best choice for domestic exporters.
Tuna imports to the Middle East have displayed a consistent upward trend over recent years, from US$286 million to US$791 million the last decade alone, of which Egypt, Saudi Arabia and Israel are the three largest importers.
Last year, Vietnam earned US$41.55 million from exporting tuna to the Middle East, representing a significant rise of 29%.
With the high consumption demand of around 200,000 tons annually and a low import duty of 5% when compared to the US and EU, and free duty frozen tuna fillets the Middle East is considered a profitable market for Vietnamese tuna exporters.
Tuna exports to the market; in particular Israel, Egypt and Saudi Arabia are forecast to increase sharply in the remaining months of 2017.
Experts said despite being surrounded by seven coastal areas, the region is still dependent on importing tuna form elsewhere because of its limited seafood exploitation.
The Middle East is emerging as the choice market for tuna exporters in the current circumstances, the markets Vietnam has traditionally exported to, the US and EU, have imposed strict regulations on illegal, unreported and unregulated (IUU) fishing.