Letter: Last chance to sway USDA catfish program

Editor’s note: The following is a letter to the editor submitted by Robert G. Hibbert, partner, and Karl M. Nobert, associate, both of the international law firm K&L Gates. The letter is in response to Tuesday’s commentary “Joke’s on American consumers.”

Despite its length, the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s long-awaited and much-delayed proposal on catfish inspection can be fairly easily summarized. Read more of this post

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US retains anti-dumping duties on Vietnamese shrimp

Shrimp harvested in South Vietnam

The US Department of Commerce (DOC) has announced that it will continue imposing anti-dumping tariffs on frozen shrimps imported from Vietnam.

According to the DOC’s ‘sunset’ review last month, Vietnamese exporters will pay import duties ranging from the lowest 4.3-5.24 percent to the highest 25.76 percent in the next five years.

Removing the duties would cause a disadvantage to U.S shrimp farmers, concluded the DOC after conducting a regular review.

The World Trade Organization (WTO) stipulates that after every five years of anti-dumping taxes, the authorities of the importing country must conduct a sunset review to check if the abolishment of anti-dumping taxes on the specified imports could impact or cause losses to its domestic industries.

If no impact is found or if the losses are insignificant, then the anti-dumping taxes must be abolished.

With this decision from the DOC, Vietnam will have to wait another five-year period before it can have these anti-dumping taxes removed while continuing to sue the US through the WTO.

Earlier this year, Vietnam launched its first dispute at the WTO with a case against US anti-dumping measures on its key exports of shrimp.

The trade dispute seeks to defend a product that brought in some US$1.5 billion in exports for Vietnam last year.

Vietnam shrimp exporters have complained about the controversial US method of calculating anti-dumping duties known as zeroing, which has been condemned repeatedly by WTO courts and rejected by all other WTO members.

Source: TuoiTre News

U.S. to maintain dumping duties on Vietnamese shrimp

The U.S. Department of Commerce this week announced the final results of the agency’s five-year “sunset” review of the antidumping duty order on certain frozen warmw ater shrimp from Vietnam and, consistent w ith the agency’s determinations in the sunset reviews of the antidumping duty orders on shrimp from India, Brazil, China, and Thailand, found the revocation of the antidumping duty order “would likely lead to continuation or recurrence of dumping” in the U.S. market.

As the result of the department’s five affirmative determinations, antidumping duties will remain in place if the U.S. International Trade Commission also affirmatively finds the revocation of the antidumping duty orders is likely to lead to material injury to the domestic shrimp industry by reason of subject imports. The commission has scheduled a public hearing for its sunset review on Feb. 1 in Washington, D.C.

The commission is tentatively scheduled to vote on whether to continue the antidumping duty orders on March 15.

Source: Intrafish

4 groups of solution for pangasius export

Pangasius filet

Pangasius filet

  • Increasing the average export price,
  • Stabilizing raw materials production to balance the supply and demand,
  • Raising the quality management,
  • Strengthening the marketing and trade promotion

Were 4 groups of solution discussed by enterprises at the conference of Vietnamese pangasius exporters and producers on 25th November 2010. This conference identified the difficulties, challenges and discussed the orientations, measures for sustainable and stable development of domestic pangasius industry.

In the past 3 years, pangasius export volume increased slightly but its export value decreased. In European markets, export prices for pangasius to its member countries are of different levels. Three main import markets are Spain, the Netherlands and Germany accounting for over 50% of market share but the average price is of different levels 0.30 – 0.40 USD/kg. Average export price to the U.S. also decreased by 6% while its import volume increased significantly.

To solve this problem, pangasius exporters request to set up and orient the export floor price for pangasius starting in 2011. Accordingly, enterprises must register in the specific market groups in accordance with VASEP’s floor price and commit to comply its deals. First the floor price will be applied to pangasius fillets for the market groups of EU, the U.S., and the Middle East (including Egypt), then depending on enterprises’s performance, it can be decided whether or not to expand the market for other groups.

Pangasius industry over the years has developed rapidly with the “explosion” of processing plants and the significant increase in aquaculture. Pangasius export surpassed US$1 billion, accounting for 30% of export value of Vietnam seafood. However, once export reached 600 thousand MT, the imbalance of demand and supply, the market competition begin fiercely.

In order to stabilize the output of raw materials, the conference proposed the Ministry of Agriculture and Rural Development (MARD) to plan and stable export volume of pangasius about 1 million MT within three years. This ensures that supply and demand is balanced, farmers have the interest to continue investment, enterprises can sell with higher price through the quality competition instead of the current price competition.

The conference organized on 25th November 2010 was attended by over 100 pangasius exporters. Most exporters agreed to raise the price for export pangasius in the moment, but in the long term, it is necessary to plan Vietnamese pangasius industry in the sustainable and stable development orientation.

 

Truth behind propaganda campaign against Vietnamese Pangasius fish. By Mr. Dương Minh Trị seafood consultant in Vietnam

Recently I’ve noticed an active campaign to promote negative propaganda about Pangasius (Basa, Swai, Striped Pangasius fillet) products of Vietnam. Certain parties are trying to condemn Vietnamese Pangasius products, one of the most tasty, nourishing and wholesome white meat farmed fish produced in the world. These people have used various means to make their claims seem legitimate, no matter how unethical they are, such as hiring secret crews to film biased and out-of-context footage that depicts unclear fragments of content. They then use this information to portray only negative aspects of the general image of Pangasius production in Vietnam.

Needless to say, we all know the culprits that stand behind this propaganda campaign. This is the same old story of an unfair attack generated by competitors from other countries that have conflicting interests.

Since the end of 90’s, thanks to great taste, consistent quality and reasonable pricing, the volume of Vietnamese Pangasius fillet (River Cobbler, Swai, Basa, etc) imported to US and E.U. markets has increased considerably. This is partially due to many restaurant chefs preferring to use Vietnamese Pangasius fillet after evaluation of quality.

The presence and acceptance of Viet Pangasius fillet products has angered some competitors. To fight against this, these competitors have been using mass media. They create propaganda materials including video footages, photos, and fragments of news from any available sources, no matter how unreliable and trustworthy these sources are, and use them to provide misinformation and distort the image of our Vietnamese Pangasius fillet products in the market place.

In November 2000, a delegation of about 20 visitors, including professors from the Auburn University (Alabama) and catfish raising and processing companies went on a fact-finding tour in the Mekong Delta region of Vietnam.

They made detailed surveys of the actual conditions of feeding and farming, for fish both in floating cages and inland ponds. They also visited various processing plants. At the conclusion of the tour, they praised the farming technology and equipment applied for fish breeding, feeding and farming; and found no grounds to lodge complaint about food safety and hygiene conditions throughout the processing cycle. At that time, if the Pangasius processing industry in Vietnam had problems, the US Food & Drug Administration (FDA) would have banned the import of our Pangasius products, but this was obviously not the case.

After this fact-finding tour, competitors found that they could no longer request the ban of Pangasius import because of issues on food safety or hygienic conditions. Instead, they started using anti-dumping protectionism. In 2003 they won the first battle when US Department of Commerce (DOC) imposed a very high anti-dumping duty rate upon Vietnamese Pangasius products imported into US.

Since then, these same competitors have constantly provided misinformation through their propaganda materials.

I wrote this letter to provide some information to clarify the truth behind these false accusations:

I live in Can Tho City, the center of the Mekong Delta area. Millions of delta inhabitants have used drinking water from Mekong river for thousands of years and we will continue to use water from this river for the future.

We can be confident of the water quality because the Mekong River water is closely observed and monitored by the Mekong River Commission (please refer to http://www.mrcmekong.org for more information). It is also monitored by MeREM (Mekong River Ecosystem Monitoring), a project that began in April 2004 with the financial support of the Ministry of Education, Culture, Sports, Science and Technology (MEXT) in Japan. The monitoring is implemented by core organizations (University of Tsukuba and National Institute for Environmental Studies), sub-organizations (Tohoku University and Yamanashi University), and the International Committee of MeREM composed of 10 members from Japan, P.R. China, Lao PDR, Cambodia, Thailand and Viet Nam (please refer to http://merem.kasetsart.org for more information).

Since 1999, the US, FDA, and E.U. veterinary authorities have received regular findings of such inspection reports on the quality of the water in aquaculture areas of Vietnam and the findings on the control of toxic residues in Pangasius fish raised in Vietnam. These reports show that the indicators of residue of heavy metals and fertilizers collected from 30 stations in the Mekong lower reaches are much lower than the international permissible levels. Justifiably, because this region is still under developed.

In addition, Vietnam’s Ministry of Agriculture and Rural Development have long banned harmful fertilizers & pesticides.

The arguments that the Mekong River water is dirty, or that the river is one the most polluted rivers on the planet containing chemical and industrial waste are totally wrong.

Those making these accusations have clearly failed to provide any scientific proof to back up their assumptions. If there is such contamination, how could our Pangasius fillet product shipments have passed numerous tests made by US, FDA, and E.U. veterinary authorities at arrival ports?

Below are listed some overseas consumer’s comments, praising our fish:

Chef Bernie on March 22, 2010 said:

“We have been serving Pangasius for 6 years as a fried fish sandwich. It is one of our most popular dishes. I have never heard of anyone not feeling well after eating one. I get complements all the time that we have the best fish sandwich in the city.”

Brian Hanson on March 22, 2010 said in response to one of these propaganda articles:

“This article is ridiculous scare-mongering and utterly discredits. I eat River Cobbler regularly. I have never had any ill effects. I know at least a dozen other people who have eaten it with no ill effects. I stumbled upon this page through Google based on this I won’t bother reading any of their other reports.”

Writer’s notes: This article refers to the slandering propaganda posted on Internet. River Cobbler: another name of Vietnamese Pangasius used in US market several years ago.

Gary Scheldt on March 23, 2010 said:

“This is nothing more than propaganda from US and European industry protectionists who want you to purchase their more expensive product than the cheaper high quality imported fish. No sources, no scientific data, just outrageous claims which rely on people’s gullibility to believe them. Don’t be taken for a fool. As has been stated above, if Basa has been eaten by millions of people millions of times over the past 10 years where is the epidemic of poisoning? If it was dangerous why is it still being imported and passing ALL food quality and safety tests in all countries it is exported to?

Incidentally the Mekong river is snow melt from the Himalayas and is a fast flowing river it is probably less polluted that many US or European rivers. Don’t be played for a fool by people who want you to buy their more expensive product.

I hope above information helps to clarify the truth behind propaganda materials being presented to turn customers away from our Vietnamese Pangasius fish.”

What I say to these competitors of our Pangasius is Fair Play!

Dương Minh Trị

 

Vietnamese shrimp export: positive outlook!

Shrimp harvested before shipment

Harvested shrimp in Soc Trang Province

According to Vietnam Customs in the first 9 months of 2010, Vietnameseshrimp export has reached 167,170 MT, valued at over US$1.4 billion,up 14.2% in volume and 22.13% in value compared to the same period of 2009.

Since early this year, Vietnamese shrimp export has not have any huge difficulties, both export volume and value to most major markets have been up sharply.

Among the 10 top Vietnam’s shrimp import markets, only Canada reduced to import this product. In the first 9 months of 2010, shrimp export to Chinaincreased greatest with 13,058 MT, worth over US$95 million, up 67.5% in volume and 62.2% in value over the same period last year. Although export price to this market was lower than other markets, export value remained high growth since the beginning of 2010.

Although facing the antidumping duty, shrimp export to the U.S. in the first 9 months of 2010 has still grown very “impressively” with 36,258 MT, worth US$376 million, up 13.9% in volume and nearly 30% in value over the same period last year. That was due to producer community’s outstanding efforts in the status of domestic raw material shortages and acumen, taking advantage of opportunities created by import markets. In the past years, Indonesia has always been a fiercest competitor of Vietnamese shrimp industry. However, since QI, 2010, Indonesian shrimp export to the U.S. has decreased continuously as export volume of Prima JSC – its largest producer and exporter decreased due to infectious diseases. In addition, the U.S. shrimp catches fell compared to last year due to oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico – theU.S. major shrimp catching area making the domestic shrimp supply less more, even causing the shortage.

In 2010, shrimp export to EU has grown remarkably though many country members fell into the serious debt crisis. In the first 9 months of this year, shrimp export to this market has reached 30,980 MT, valued at US$225.5 million, up 10.3% in volume and 18.4% in value over the same period last year.Germany, France and the UK – three leading importers of Vietnamese shrimp seemed to not suffer from this debt crisis. Shrimp export value to these markets increased 56.8%, 12.3% and 6.2%, respectively to France, Germanyand England.

2010 has also been a good year for shrimp export to Japan. Since early this year, shrimp export to this market continued to increase. Following the inspection trip to Vietnam seafood processing industry in March 2010, good assessments of Food Safety Department – Japanese Ministry of Health, Labour and Welfare on the quality and food safety management methods ofVietnam’s seafood processing plants drove forces to shrimp export growth to this market.

It is forecasted that in the remaining months of 2010, Vietnam shrimp export would continue its growth unless markets’ conditions had many big changes.

 

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