Impact of COVID-19 on Seafood Exports
First Secretary and Head of the Trade Office at the Vietnamese Embassy in Egypt, Nguyen Duy Hung, highlighted that Vietnam’s tuna exports to the Middle East and Africa have shown promising signs since the beginning of the year, despite the overall decline in seafood exports due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
The pandemic has significantly impacted Vietnam’s seafood exports to the region, including the Middle East and Africa, as revealed by Hung in an interview with the Vietnam News Agency.
Decline in Seafood Shipments
Data from the General Department of Vietnam Customs indicates a notable decline in seafood exports to Vietnam’s major markets in the Middle East and Africa, namely Israel, the United Arab Emirates (UAE), and Egypt, during the first nine months of 2020.
Specifically, seafood shipments to Egypt experienced a significant year-on-year decline of 35.6 percent, amounting to 23.5 million USD. This decline in seafood exports is higher than the overall export decline to Egypt, which stood at 8.7 percent.
Factors Contributing to the Decline
Hung attributed the steep decline in seafood exports to the Middle East and Africa to several factors. The measures implemented by the Egyptian Government to contain the spread of COVID-19, such as curfews, gathering bans, and restaurant closures, have led to a weakened demand for imported food in general.
Additionally, Egypt’s policies aimed at reducing imports and boosting exports to address the trade deficit pose challenges for Vietnamese seafood exporters.
Tuna Exports Show Promising Growth
Amidst the challenges faced by overall seafood exports, Vietnam’s tuna shipments, particularly canned tuna, have demonstrated decent growth in recent years. The Vietnam Association of Seafood Exporters and Producers (VASEP) reports that canned tuna exports accounted for 2.29 percent of Vietnam’s total tuna exports to Egypt in the first three quarters of this year, equivalent to 11.9 million USD. This figure represents the second-highest share in the Middle East and Africa, following Israel.
Potential for Expansion in Tuna Exports
Hung emphasized that there is significant potential for Vietnam to increase its tuna exports to Egypt, considering the country’s import value of 160 million USD for tuna in the previous year. Thailand currently dominates the market with 89.5 percent of the share (145 million USD), while Vietnam holds a smaller share of 5.6 percent (9 million USD).
The impact of COVID-19 has underscored the importance of diversifying import sources, presenting a “golden” opportunity for Vietnamese enterprises to strengthen their presence in the Egyptian market.
In conclusion, despite the challenges posed by the COVID-19 pandemic, Vietnam’s tuna exports to the Middle East and Africa, particularly to Egypt, have displayed positive signs. While overall seafood exports have experienced a decline, the growth of canned tuna exports highlights the potential for Vietnamese enterprises to expand their market share.
By capitalizing on this opportunity and diversifying supply sources, Vietnam can further strengthen its position in the Middle East and African markets.