Vietnam's tuna exports to the Middle East are increasing
As the U.S and the EU demand for Vietnamese tuna is slowing down, the SouthEast country is focusing on other markets with potential for its exports.
The Middle East countries have manifested recently a stronger interest in tuna products from Vietnam, according to the country's Association of Seafood Exporters and Producers (VASEP).
According to statistics of Customs Vietnam, the first eight months of 2018, Vietnam’s tuna exports to Middle East countries hit more than $62 million, up 42% over the same period last year. In particular, Vietnam mainly exported canned/processed tuna products to this market, accounting for 80% of total export value. In comparison with the same period last year, Vietnamese exports of tuna products to this market increased over the same period except for live/fresh/frozen/dried items.
"Middle East is now the best choice for canned tuna exporters to expand the market while the demand for canned tuna in traditional markets such as the U.S and the EU is slowing down. The reason is that the demand in this region has been increasing continuously in the past few years. The demand for canned tuna in this region is on the rise thanks to the continuous growth in the region's agricultural imports", explained Van Ha, a specialist on the tuna market for VASEP.
Middle East consumes an average of 16 million tuna boxes a year, or about 200 thousand MT. Egypt, Saudi Arabia, and Israel are the three largest importers of tuna in recent years, accounting for 21%, 19%, and 11%, respectively. There are 14 countries in the Middle East currently importing tuna from Vietnam, of which Israel and Egypt are the two leading importers of Vietnamese tuna.
For example, Egypt annually imports about US$130 million of tuna products of all kinds. In particular, canned tuna accounted for 99% of the total value of tuna imports of the country in the past 10 years. 100% of canned tuna products in Egypt are from imports due to the fact that the country does not have a processing plant. Most of the canned/processed tuna products into this country are for domestic consumption, with only a few being exported to Sudan.
There are 12 countries supplying the Egyptian tuna market, with Thailand, Indonesia, Vietnam, the Philippines, China, and Italy ranking as the top six exporters in this market. "Vietnam was currently the third largest tuna supplier to the Egyptian market, behind Thailand and Indonesia. Exports of Thai and Indonesian tuna to Egypt decreased, while those of Vietnam increased. The reason is that the price of skipjack increased, thus the country to look for cheaper supplies, including Vietnam", explained the specialist.
In Israel, a rate of obesity of 20% has forced the Israeli Ministry of Health to encourage people to eat tuna to supplement their omega-3s and neutral fats. As a result, Israel's tuna consumption is on the rise.
"Vietnam ranked the second largest tuna supplier to the Israeli market over the past three years, behind Thailand. If in the canned tuna segment, Vietnamese products are not competitive with the same products from Thailand, in the Israeli frozen tuna segment, Vietnam is leading and has almost no competitors," added Van Ha.
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