Vietnam pushing back against Brazilian import restrictions on tilapia, shrimp

“Brazil can be a challenging market for doing business, partly due to a complicated regulatory environment”

On 15 February, the Brazilian Agriculture Ministry suspended all tilapia imports from Vietnam, pending a review of current health protocols and concern over introduction of the TiLV virus into its domestic aquaculture industry.

Brazil Agriculture and Livestock (MAPA) Minister Carlos Fávaro and Brazil Fisheries and Aquaculture (MPA) Minister André de Paulta jointly announced that tilapia imports from Vietnam would be suspended until all health risk analysis could be performed on products coming from that country, particularly over fears of the TiLV virus entering Brazil, in addition to the possible use of polyphosphate in Vietnam to artificially increase the weight of tilapia fillets.

“It means being cautious, guaranteeing quality and health in Brazilian production,” Fávaro said in a statement. “Brazil is a major producer and exporter of food because its agricultural defense is at its highest level, guaranteeing the quality of our products. We cannot and will never compromise on this matter.”

The suspension will remain in place until the health protocol review is completed, he said, without providing an estimated date for the review’s completion.

Vietnam was the only country to export tilapia to Brazil in 2023, and it only exported 25 metric tons valued at USD 118,000 (EUR 110,000). In contrast, Brazil produced 860,355 metric tons (MT) of farmed fish in 2022, and it exported USD 24 million (EUR 22.1 million) in fish products in 2022, 98 percent of which was tilapia. However, a disease outbreak reduced Brazilian exports in 2023, and Brazilian tilapia exports fell 32 percent by volume to 3,319 metric tons in the first half of the year, Reuters reported, citing an FAO report.

According to Peixe BR, the Brazilian fish-farming association, the Vietnamese tilapia had “obvious health risks that could also compromise the activity in Brazil.” It advised Brazilian companies “not to negotiate with importers.”

“We have no information whether the batch has undergone all health risk analyses to ensure its safety for consumption. Neither do we know about the tilapia breeding and processing process in Vietnam, which we also consider worrying,” Peixe BR President Francisco Medeiros said in January. “We also have many doubts about the cost of imports, considering that the amounts paid are lower than the cost of production in Brazil. This is dumping.”

Peixe BR said Brazil has the capacity to supply the entire country with safe, high-quality tilapia, with a production chain that includes “new and developing activity and involves thousands of companies and producers – 98 percent of which are small.”

It noted tilapia production had increased 48.6 percent since 2014, that tilapia farming in Brazil generated revenue of BRL 9 billion (USD 1.79 billion, EUR 1.65 billion) in 2022, and was responsible for around 3 million direct and indirect jobs. Brazil is now the fourth-largest producer of tilapia in the world after China, Indonesia, and Egypt, and tilapia comprised 64 percent of the country’s farmed fish production in 2022, according to Peixe BR data.

“As an entity defending the farmed fish production chain, we will do everything in our power to defend Brazilian tilapia,” it said.

The Vietnam Association of Seafood Exporters and Producers (VASEP) said the suspension will have a minimal impact, with Vietnamese tilapia exports to Brazil practically nonexistent over the past five years. The European Union overtook the U.S. as Vietnam’s largest consumer market for tilapia in 2023, importing USD 2 million (EUR 1.8 million) of the product, with the Netherlands accounting for nearly half of the total.

Vietnam’s tilapia exports to other markets, though, have shown an overall downward trend in the past five years, according to VASEP data. In 2023, Vietnam’s tilapia exports totaled just over USD 6 million (EUR 5.5 million), down 42 percent compared to 2022 and down 70 percent compared to 2019. It said competing with low-priced tilapia from China has become difficult for Vietnamese companies.

Though Brazil does not import much tilapia from Vietnam, it imported USD 113 million (EUR 105 million) worth of pangasius from Vietnam in 2023, up 19 percent from 2022. However, Vietnam’s pangasius exports to Brazil are down 51 percent thus far in 2024. VASEP expressed concern that Brazil’s actions impeding tilapia imports could portend similar upcoming action against pangasius from Vietnam. Brazil has used sanitary and technical barriers to protect its domestic producers in the past, it said.




Translate »