Vietnamese National Standards on fish sauce production temporarily halted

Deputy Prime Minister of Vietnam Vu Duc Dam has entrusted the Ministry of Agriculture and Rural Development (MARD) to take into account the opinions of organizations and associations about standards for fish sauce, requiring that the standards must not cause negative impacts on production and business of traditional fish sauce makers.

Traditional fish sauce production in Phu Quoc. (Photo: SGGP)

Traditional fish sauce production in Phu Quoc. (Photo: SGGP)

Lately, some organizations and associations have sent Prime Minister petitions against a draft of national technical standards for fish sauce, proposed and put out for consultation by MARD.

The draft standards TCVN-12607:2019 on new standards for fish sauce production practices built by the Agro Processing and Market Development Authority under the MARD. The draft, unfortunately, has raised controversial opinions among fish sauce makers as well as experts. Representatives of several traditional fish sauce makers along with fish sauce experts all said that many regulations in the draft are inappropriate with actual production of traditional fish sauce.

Accordingly, the Directorate for Standards, Metrology and Quality and the Ministry of Science and Technology on March 12 decided to temporarily halt the aforesaid draft standards.

Deputy minister of Science and Technology Pham Cong Tac said that the draft standards TCVN-12607:2019 for fish sauce production practices must meet three principles. Firstly, it must meet the general development level of the society. Secondly, it must ensure the consensus of the society. Lastly, it must ensure the interest of relevant parties.

Earlier, Nha Trang Fish Sauce Association sent a document to propose the drafting committee to reduce heavy metal control criteria from four to one as before and increase histamine limit from 400 milligram per liter to 800 milligram per liter to be more appropriate with actual fish sauce production.

The document also proposed the authority to halt promulgation of Vietnamese National Standards and carry out field survey in regions where traditional fish sauce is made, including Phu Quoc, Nha Trang, Phan Thiet and Cat Hai to collect public opinions before promulgating the draft.

The association also proposed the drafting committee to build two separate sets of Vietnamese National Standards for traditional fish sauce and its industrial counterpart.

Mrs. Nguyen Thi Tinh, former president of Phu Quoc Fish Sauce Association, said that the association would hold a meeting with local fish sauce makers, scientists and experts to collect their opinions on March 12. She also expressed desire that the Government will allow drafting of two distinct sets of Vietnamese National Standards for traditional fish sauce and industrial one to provide clear distinguishability and create conditions for traditional fish sauce industry to develop.

According to Euromonitor, fish sauce market value is estimated at US$4.5 billion with annual growth of about 4.7 percent from 2016 to 2021. Of which, Vietnamese fish sauce market is evaluated at around $501 million with production of more than 70,000 tons of fish sauce made in 2015. More than 300 million liters of fish sauce are consumed annually and a Vietnamese person consumes an average of four liters of fish sauce each year.

The value of a bottle of industrial fish sauce is at around $1-2 whereas that of pure traditional fish sauce with high nitrogen level is worth up to $9. At the present, there are only two places, consisting of Phu Quoc island district in the Mekong Delta province of Kien Giang and Phan Thiet city in the south central province of Binh Thuan, received geographical indication by the National Office of Intellectual Property of Vietnam.

Unofficial statistics showed that traditional fish sauce accounted for 25-30 percent of market share, the remaining market share is in the hand of industrial fish sauce makers.

By Staff writers – Compiled and translated by Thuy Doan

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