Vietnam's shrimp sector looks set to emerge from the COVID-19 pandemic as "the winner", thanks to a fortuitous combination of events, speakers on Undercurrent News' latest webinar agreed.
The Southeast Asian nation is set to benefit from the EU-Vietnam Free Trade Agreement (EVFTA) -- which entered into force Aug. 1, 2020 -- and high value added processing capacity, demand for which has greatly increased during the pandemic lockdown and heightened pressure on retail goods.
The EVFTA saw duties for raw product drop to 0% from Aug. 1, while the various cooked products are set to fall to 0% over the coming years.
There are 31 Vietnamese shrimp companies that can sell to the US duty-free under the current anti-dumping rate period of review.
Vietnam has avoided the most significant impacts of the coronavirus, with logistics fairly unimpacted and shrimp raw material production actually likely to be up yearon-year, according to Jim Gulkin, CEO and founder of Siam Canadian Group.
"No question, the increase in retail demand has been helpful for Vietnam," he said, adding that Thailand, though it has similarly high levels of value-added capacity, has been limited by its production, which hasn't increased to enable growth of sales into North American retail.
Willem van der Pijl, the founder of Shrimp Insights, said there was a good chance of a shift in sourcing preference in the European markets too.
"Things are changing in Europe for peeled shrimp in terms of sourcing strategies now," he said. "We see a bigger group of buyers that's doing direct sourcing. We see more diverse geographies. You'll see a switch -- further away from India and Indonesia, and to more Vietnam, due to the FTA.
"In Europe, Vietnam is really strengthening its position in retail, not only because of the product, but also because of the ASC [Aquaculture Stewardship Council] certication," he said. "Vietnam has by far the most volume of ASC certied product, especially for cooked [shrimp]. India is the other supplier, but it doesn't have as much cooked product; Vietnam does."
Robins McIntosh, senior vice president of Charoen Pokphand Foods, agreed. "Vietnam comes out of this as a winner, yes, they've made great advancements during this problem.
Jeff Sedacca, CEO Sunnyvale Seafood Co -- part of Zhanjiang Guolian Aquatic Products -- also noted that while Vietnam was set to emerge "the winner", "Indonesia is right behind them".
"Indonesia was already so geared to labor-intensive, value-added products. So they were able to fill in, where a lot of places weren't," he said.
Gulkin agreed, saying Indonesia had "taken advantage and increased its retail market share in the US".
Vietnam's sales to the US have remained more or less steady, though in June and July exports were up 29% and 47% respectively.
In the EU, meanwhile, total shrimp imports have dropped steeply in 2020, with the foodservice sector more or less out of action.
Vietnam's sales to the EU spiked in August, once the EVFTA entered into force. In August 2020, shrimp exports to the EU increased by nearly 16% over the same period in 2019.
It noted that while frozen black tiger shrimp tariffs have reduced from the generalized system of preferences level of 4.2% to 0% straight away, cooked vannamei would gradually decline to 0% after five years.