Through online channels such as China's leading e-commerce platform Alibaba, Vietnam's pangasius products have appeared in many major Chinese cities.
“Before Vietnam only used to sell whole fish to the border region in southern China. Now fillet pangasius goes to Beijing and to Shanghai and even now goes to Dalian. The demand will be much higher.” Truong Dinh Hoe, General Secretary of the Vietnam Association of Seafood Exporters and Producers said.
Vietnam’s pangasius exporters benefited from the China-US trade rift last year, with major importers switching to Vietnamese pangasius. The fish is a type of catfish and widely accepted by US consumers
Vietnam is the world’s largest pangasius producer, achieving 1.33 million metric tons of output in 2018, versus 1.25m in 2017, The next biggest players are India with 540,000t of output in 2018, Bangladesh with 455,000t, and Indonesia with 110,000t.
China is fast catching up with the European Union as the world’s biggest seafood importer, as imports reached almost 5m metric tons seafood last year, according to Rabobank. Pangasius is a “really good choice” for Chinese customers seeking white fish fillets given that Vietnam neighbors the world’s most populous nation, Truong Dinh Hoe said.
One of the last challenges to overcome was getting Chinese customers to buy imported fillets, instead of whole fish, he said. China’s GDP per capita has surged from $3,471 in 2008 to $8,827 in 2017, according to World Bank data. By contrast, Vietnam’s GDP per capita rose from $1,143 to $2,342 over the same period, broadly meaning it’s labor costs are now much cheaper than China.
This means that selling fillets made on the Mekong Delta to China is highly competitive.
Currently, seafood exports to China is increasingly convenient with low cost. Almost seafood exporters in the South have moved from road transportation to marinetime transpotation. Compared to exports through unofficiall route by road, officiall exports by seaway helps enterprises limit payment, product quality risks and save costs.
In 2019, it will be an opportunity for enterprises to expand exports by sea freight to major cities of China to improve the quality and quantity of official exports. Seafood exports to the Chinese market are forecast to reach US$1.5 billion this year, of which pangasius is one of the key products.