VASEP: Formosa Ha Tinh should compensate seafood losses

Friday, Aug 26, 2016 18:24

Mass fish deaths in the central region of Viet Nam. Local seafood businesses have suffered major losses after many international customers canceled contracts because of doubts over the seafood's quality in case it was contaminated with heavy metals. — Photo

HA NOI (Biz Hub) — The Government has been asked to compel Taiwanese firm Hung Nghiep Formosa Ha Tinh Steel Co. Ltd to compensate losses incurred by locals when it released toxic water into the ocean in April.

The seawater in the four central provinces of Ha Tinh, Quang Binh, Quang Tri and Thua Thien-Hue are reportedly now safe for swimming, water sports and aquaculture, but local seafood producers have lost face in the international and domestic markets.

In a proposal sent to the Government and ministries of Agriculture and Rural Development (MARD) and Industry and Trade (MIoT), Vietnam Association of Seafood Exporters and Producers (VASEP) said local seafood businesses had suffered major losses after many international customers canceled contracts because of doubts over the seafood's quality in case it was contaminated with heavy metals.

Meanwhile, in the domestic market, many Vietnamese people still have concerns about the seafood's quality, so they do not buy products originating in the central region. Businesses and fishermen have failed to sell their products, so they have had to reserve their seafood products in cold storage and pay extra for services such as power and storage and for workers' wages.

The incident has raised concerns among fishermen about their livelihoods. Many of them do not dare to go fishing, said VASEP.

"The businesses' purchase volume has so far fallen by 60 per cent compared with the same period last year," said VASEP, which has 270 members who are nation-wide seafood producers and exporters.

VASEP pointed to South Ha Tinh Sea Products Import-Export JSC (Shatico) in Ky Anh District, Ha Tinh Province, as an example of a local business suffering major losses. The company bought 228 tonnes of seafood materials in the first eight months of this year, a drop of more than 60 per cent compared with the same period last year.

Shatico Chairman and Director Tran Dinh Nam said his company had so far this year earned US$1.4 million, a year-on-year reduction of $1 million.

"Many fishermen have not yet left for  fishing, so my company may stop operations from September to December. Meanwhile, we will have to pay expenses for our workers and domestic partners," said Nam.

VASEP said many local seafood companies were facing such difficulties and would stop operations due to the shortage of materials.

VASEP expects the Government to direct ministries to create supportive conditions and help businesses seek imported materials to maintain their operations.

According to MARD, the four provinces have more than 16,000 fishing boats, some 12,000 of which have low-capacity engines below 90 horse power (HP). After the mass fish deaths caused by the discharge of pollutants by steel maker Formosa Ha Tinh in April, most of the boats did not go out fishing because the aquatic resources were almost exhausted.

The ministry has advised the Government to support fishermen in building ships with an engine capacity of 90 to 400 HP, which will help them take their fishing activities further offshore for a higher output.

Nguyễn Ngọc Oai, Deputy Director of MARD's Viet Nam Directorate of Fisheries, told the local media that the ministry had asked the affected localities to total up the losses caused by the polluted environment. The list of losses must be sent to the ministry before September 10. The ministry would then send it to the prime minister.

According to a report from MARD, Viet Nam's seafood export turnover in the first eight months of this year reached $4.3 billion, an increase of 4.1 per cent over the same period last year.

The United States, Japan, China and the Republic of Korea were the four leading markets for Vietnamese seafood, while the highest surge was seen in the Chinese market with 53.9 per cent, followed by the United States with 11.9 per cent and Thailand with 9.9 per cent. — VNS

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