Seafood export to EU: Situation and trend

European Union is the largest seafood market in the world, whicj is known for many developed economies and high per capita income.

Due to the ever-depleting fisheries, there has been a growing gap between fisheries output and consumer demand in this block. The import of seafood is the only way for EU to satisfy the increasing demand for seafood of all types.

According to FAO statistics, total fisheries output and aquaculture production of EU in 2008 reached 6.4 million tons, lower than 6.5 million MT in 2007. EU’s common policy is to maintain a sustainable fisheries output to protect their resources and environment, therefore, the block should rely on import to meet the consumers’ demand. In the past few years, however, EU’s seafood imports have been limited because of the economic crisis and public debts in many EU countries.

Globefish reported EU spent around US$42.5 billion on seafood imports in 2010, a slight increase of 2.6 percent in comparison with US$41.4 billion in 2009, but much lower than US$44.7 billion in 2008. The figure, though trivial, showed a recovery in the purchasing power in the block.

Viet Nam’s seafood export to EU
Since 2006, EU has surpassed the US and Japan to become the largest importer of Vietnamese seafood. In 2003, seafood exports to EU accounted for only 5.7 percent of Viet Nam’s total seafood export value. Currently, this share jumps to 23.5 percent, which make EU an extremely important market for Vietnamese seafood. Meanwhile seafood imports from Viet Nam only accounted for nearly 2.8 percent of EU’s total seafood imports.

According to VASEP, 2010 marked a successful year for Viet Nam’s seafood export to European market as the export value to this block bounced back after a slight decrease in the previous year.

Last year, Viet Nam exported 364,000MT of seafood to EU, totaled US$1.18 billion, an increase of 4 percent in volume and 9.6 percent in value in comparison with 2009. Viet Nam’s seafood to EU was mainly consumed in Germany, Spain, Italy, the Netherlands and France.

Export value to France experienced the record growth rate of 68.3 percent in 2010. The average export price to France was also much higher than that in other EU countries. Currently, Viet Nam’s major seafood products to EU are Pangasius, shrimp, mollusk and tuna.

The period 2003-2008 recorded the appearance in great volume of Vietnamese Pangasius fillet in Belgium, the Netherlands, Germany and Spain. However, the rapid intrusion of  Pangasius also led to some backfire there.

Pangasius exports to EU peaked in 2008, and then dropped in the next two years. Seafoodsource said many EU importers are now anticipating a shortage in supplies of inexpensive Pangasius from Viet Nam as the fish output this year is forecasted at only 1 million MT.

Presently,  Pangasius is sold at US$3/kilo to EU, much higher than US$2.3-2.5/kilo several months ago. However, such export price is as much as 30 percent below the US. It is expected Viet Nam’s  Pangasius export turnover into EU in 2011 will further decline due to limited supplies, increased export price and the smear campaigns in these markets. Anyhow, EU is still considered the strategic market for Vietnamese  Pangasius, which accounted around 36 percent (US$511 million) market share last year.

In the last three years, Viet Nam’s shrimp exports to EU increased continuously at 20 percent per year. Germany, the UK and France were the three largest importers of Vietnamese shrimp. It is noticed that shrimp consumption in French restaurants has increased remarkably though the country has not fully recovered from the economic crisis.

Beside Viet Nam, France intensified import of shrimp from other major shrimp suppliers, i.e. Ecuador and Thailand, with an increase of 13 percent in the first nine months of 2010.

In the first two months of 2011, Viet Nam’s shrimp exports to EU rocketed by 42.3 percent in volume and 64.4 percent in value. EU’s demand for value-added and large sized shrimp is increasing substantially. Germany, the UK and France are the markets with fastest-growing demand for this category of products. Surprisingly, the slight rise in seafood and shrimp price has not affected the imports of this block.


EU is also the largest market for Vietnamese mollusk with Italy being the biggest individual importer. In the first two months of this year, exports of squid and octopus to Italy increased significantly, up 92.7 percent in value. It is expected Italy will continue to hold its leading position in 2011.

Mollusk exports to most EU markets were promising in the beginning of the year with average growth of over 70 percent in value year-on-year, and are expected to increase further this year.

Currently, retail prices of all seafood items in EU and some other major markets have been increasing. Some markets, such as France, experienced a two-digit growth in price of high value species like sole, sea bream and hake. Retail price of other popular species also increased from 4 to 8 percent, said Seafoodsource. However, Pangasius retail price in EU almost did not change despite the increase in export price.

Recently, FAO has reported a record growth in food prices, which are likely to increase further.The fact that the Euro (EUR) devaluated around 15 percent against the US dollar (USD) without sign of recovery has resulted in hiking seafood selling price in the European market.

More than one year to now, many distribution systems and supermarkets in Europe have been looking for sustainable seafood sources. Consumers, especially those in the UK increasingly concern about the products’ sustainability. Ecological certification becomes a real goal of many capture fisheries when Wal- Mart and many retailers announce their commitments to purchase sustainable seafood certified by the Marine Stewardship Council (MSC).

It is reported more than one million people in the UK choose seafood certified  as sustainable. Big distributors in the UK, such as Sainsbury, Waitrose, Marks & Spencer, and Tesco all go after sustainable seafood. According to Seafoodsource, London is striving to be the first sustainable seafood city in the world. The organizers of the 2012 Olympic Games in London said the 82MT of seafood supplied during the event would be sustainable items.

In EU, many companies started farming organic fish, such as cobia, salmon and tilapia.

It is expected that the sustainable and environmentally friendly seafood consumption trend in EU and other main markets will stimulate Viet Nam’s seafood producers to widen application of international standards in fisheries and aquaculture practices, especially for two staple products – shrimp and Pangasius.
Source: Vietfish INternational

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