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Vietnam clenches fist on ‘dirty’ shrimp

Friday, April 14, 2017, 20:33 GMT+7

Since the Vietnamese premier ‘declared war’ on substance-injected shrimp last month, authorities in the shrimp-growing hub Mekong Delta have taken hard-line measures to settle the issue.

They have vowed to put an end to the injection of Vietnamese shrimp with substances by 2018, in accordance with governmental directives.

Vietnamese Prime Minister Nguyen Xuan Phuc ‘declared war’ on the practice of injecting shrimp with jelly-like substances in the country’s export shrimp market in an iron-fist move to improve the industry’s international image. “The [Vietnamese] government will sternly crack down on those that violate the law, affecting Vietnam’s shrimp-farming industry and tainting Vietnamese shrimp’s reputation,” PM Phuc said at a seminar in Ca Mau Province on February 6.

On Tuesday, interdepartmental inspectors in Bac Lieu Province stormed a local shrimp-trading establishment owned by Ha Thi Kieu, 47, and found 20 workers injecting a substance into their shrimp.

On-site chemical tests found that the shellfish had been injected with a jelly-like substance known as agar to improve their size, weight and visual appeal.

One day earlier, Bac Lieu authorities had confiscated nearly 430 kilograms of similarly injected shrimp being transported on a truck en route to the province’ namesake city to be sold to local traders.

According to Ha Van Buol, chief inspector of the Bac Lieu Department of Agriculture and Rural Development, the recent incidents are just two among many other cases of shrimp injection having been uncovered in the province over the past two months.

Other Mekong Delta provinces are picking the same fight. Nearly 2.5 metric tons of substance-injected shrimp have been discovered and seized in neighboring Ca Mau since the beginning of 2017, according to Vo Thanh Tiem, manager of the Ca Mau Branch of Agriculture, Forestry and Seafood Quality Management.

Bac Lieu has set a target to have all local shrimp farming, trading and processing facilities sign a commitment by the end of 2017 to abstain from shrimp injection, with a vision to completely eliminate the practice in 2018.

Meanwhile, the administration of Soc Trang Province has cracked down on injected shrimp with active dissemination of the consequences of such a practice to local shrimp businesses.

“Rejection of Vietnam’s shrimp exports due to the existence of such substances hurts local shrimp farmers just as much as it does to exporters,” said Phan Thanh Chien, manager of the Soc Trang Branch of Agriculture, Forestry and Seafood Quality Management.

The provinces in the Mekong Delta region are eyeing enhanced cooperation in a joint mission, headed by Bac Lieu, to eliminate shrimp injection, according to Phan Thanh Liem, chief inspector of Kien Giang Province’s Department of Agriculture and Rural Development.

Provincial administrations are set to sign an agreement on the cooperation in April, focusing on cases in border areas.

According to Truong Dinh Hoe, general secretary of the Vietnam Association of Seafood Exporters and Producers, some businesses have even reported finding toothpicks and nails inside shrimp bought from local traders and farmers.

“It takes a lot of time and money for these businesses to remove such objects from the shrimp,” Hoe said. “Even then, these shrimp have been exposed to risks of microbial infection and may be rejected by foreign importers.”

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