China's ban on Japanese seafood due to fears of radioactive contamination has stirred interest among Vietnamese firms, who see potential opportunities for increased exports. However, the actual gains have been relatively modest, primarily due to declining demand in the Chinese market.
The ban was imposed by China on August 24 after Japan decided to release treated radioactive water from the damaged Fukushima nuclear power plant into the sea. Additionally, Hong Kong and Macau implemented their bans, covering Japanese seafood imports from ten different regions.
While some industry insiders believe this ban might open doors for Vietnamese seafood exports, the reality is more nuanced. Japan accounted for only about 3% of China's seafood imports last year, with Ecuador contributing 18.6%, Russia 14.4%, and Vietnam 8.8%, making Japan a relatively minor player in this market.
A Vietnamese seafood exporter, based in Nha Trang in the central region, noted that the ban could potentially benefit certain products, such as tuna. Chinese buyers have increased their orders for tuna by approximately 15% year-on-year. However, the demand for other products like shrimp and octopus remains down by around 20% year-on-year.
Pangasius, one of Vietnam's key seafood exports, hasn't experienced a significant surge in shipments to China due to persistently weak demand. A report by SSI Research stated, "Pangasius exports to China saw a slight uptick last week, but it was not significant and unrelated to the ban."
It's worth noting that the Vietnamese seafood industry has faced a challenging year overall. Demand has decreased in major markets, including the U.S., the E.U., and China, largely due to rising inflation and economic difficulties. According to the Vietnam Association of Seafood Exporters and Producers (VASEP), pangasius exports to China dropped by 32% year-on-year to $325 million, while shrimp exports fell by 9% to $338 million.
VASEP's general secretary, Truong Dinh Hoe, believes that while there may be some opportunities, Vietnamese exporters are unlikely to see significant benefits from the ban.