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The U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) has asked the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) to continue its role as inspector of pangasius imports from Vietnam, state media has reported.
The USDA earlier planned to take over the job of inspecting all stages of Vietnam’s pangasius production from the FDA from September 1, 2017, when Vietnamese pangasius will be labeled as catfish. However, in its recently released budget summary for 2018, the USDA asked the FDA to move on with the task due to its budget cuts.
Truong Dinh Hoe, general secretary of Vietnam Association of Seafood Exporters and Producers (VASEP), said the association has received the information. “We are contacting the parties concerned to see what is really going on,” he said.
Vietnamese seafood exporters who are used to the etiquette of the FDA said it would be easier to work with FDA than the USDA in terms of paperwork. In addition to transferring some duties to other agencies, the USDA is expected to lay off 5,300 staff to cut costs.
In 2016, Vietnam’s pangasius exports reached $1.66 billion, with the U.S. being the largest importer, accounting for 23% of Vietnam’s total pangasius exports. However, China has overtaken the U.S. as the largest importer of Vietnamese pangasius this year.
According to VASEP, pangasius exports to the U.S. in the first quarter of 2017 totaled only $61 million, down 24% from the same period last year. The high anti-dumping tariff and the U.S. technical barriers are attributed to the fall in pangasius sales to America.
There are currently 15 eligible firms exporting pangasius to the U.S. but only two or three of them frequently export the fish there.