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Twenty leading tra fish (pangasius) exporters in Vietnam have decided to jointly establish a market development fund to cope with the PR crisis in the European Union (EU) that has negatively affected Vietnam’s tra fish sales there this year.

At a conference on “Implementation of Decree No. 55/2017/ND-CP and solutions to sustainable development of the tra fish sector” in Tien Giang Province last week, Vinh Hoan Corporation chairwoman Truong Thi Le Khanh said the EU’s standards for tra fish imports from Vietnam have been adopted by many EU countries.

Vietnam’s tra fish industry has found it increasingly tough to sell the fish to the EU since Spain Cuatro’s television channel gave wrong information about fish farmed in the Mekong Delta. However, the sector can deal with the PR crisis through a more popular television channel which can tell the truth about fish farming in Vietnam, Khanh added.

The participating enterprises at the conference presided over by the Vietnam Association of Seafood Exporters and Producers (VASEP) pledged to contribute US$200,000 to the fund. However, only US$87,000 has since been transferred by nine enterprises, said VASEP deputy general secretary To Thi Tuong Lan.

Khanh proposed the Ministry of Agriculture and Rural Development support the fund-raising effort.

Lan said improving fish quality was key to dealing with the EU problem although media plays a major role.

Vu Van Tam, deputy minister of agriculture and rural development, told the Daily that the ministry had coordinated with VASEP to implement the fund-raising endeavor. VASEP has worked with ministries including the Ministry of Finance to help raise the fund.

A report by VASEP shows that in the first four months of 2017, Vietnamese tra fish exports amounted to US$518.6 million, up 2.2% over the same period last year and accounting for 23.9% of total seafood exports.

China was Vietnam’s largest tra fish importer, accounting for 19.9%, followed by the U.S. with 17.4% and ASEAN with 8% of total exports.