Middle East increased tuna imports from Vietnam

(seafood.vasep.com.vn) While tuna exports to the U.S and EU slowed down, Middle East countries are being selected as a new destination for tuna export enterprises of Vietnam. The Middle East claimed as Vietnam's third largest importing market behind the U.S and the EU.

According to statistics of Customs Vietnam, the first eight months of 2018, Vietnam’s tuna exports to Middle East countries hit more than US$62 million, up 42% over the same period last year. In particular, Vietnam mainly exported canned/processed tuna products to this market, accounting for 80% of total export value. In comparison with the same period last year, Vietnamese exports of tuna products to this market increased over the same period except for live/fresh/frozen/dried HS code 03 (except for HS code 0304).



Jan-Aug 2017

Jan-Aug 2018

Variation (%)

Tuna HS code 03 (1)




- Live/fresh/frozen/dried tuna (HS code 03, except for HS code 0304)




- Tuna (HS code 0304)




Processed tuna HS code 16 (2)




- Canned tuna (HS code 16)




- Other processed tuna (HS code 16)




Total (1 + 2)




(Source: Vietnam Customs)

Middle East is now the best choice for canned tuna exporters to expand the market while the demand for canned tuna in traditional markets such as the U.S and the EU is slowing down. The reason is that the demand in this region has been increasing continuously in the past few years. The demand for canned tuna in this region is on the rise thanks to the continuous growth in the region's agricultural imports.

Middle East consumes an average of 16 million tuna boxes a year, or about 200 thousand MT. Egypt, Saudi Arabia and Israel are the three largest importers of tuna in recent years, accounting for 21%, 19% and 11%, respectively.

There are 14 countries in the Middle East currently importing tuna from Vietnam, of which Israel and Egypt are the two leading importers of Vietnamese tuna.


As the largest importer of tuna in the Middle East, Egypt annually imports about US$130 million of tuna products of all kinds. In particular, canned tuna accounted for 99% of the total value of tuna imports of the country in the past 10 years. 100% of canned tuna products in Egypt are from imports due to the fact that the country does not have a processing plant. Most of the canned/processed tuna products into this country are for domestic consumption, with only a few being exported to Sudan.

Egypt is currently importing tuna from 12 countries around the world. Thailand, Indonesia, Vietnam, the Philippines, China and Italy are the six largest tuna suppliers to the Egyptian market. Out of all the supplies, ASEAN accounts for over 91% of the total value of Egyptian tuna imports.

Vietnam was currently the third largest tuna supplier to the Egyptian market, behind Thailand and Indonesia. Exports of Thai and Indonesian tuna to Egypt decreased, while those of Vietnam increased. The reason is that the price of skipjack increased, thus the country to look for cheaper supplies, including Vietnam.


Israel was the third largest tuna importing market in the Middle East. In Israel, consumers often use tuna in dishes such as salads, sushi restaurants and are willing to pay high prices for satisfactory products. With the rate of obese people above 20%, the Israeli Ministry of Health has also announced it is encouraging people to eat tuna to supplement their omega-3s and neutral fats. As a result, Israel's tuna consumption is on the rise.

In the region, ASEAN countries are the main source of tuna to this market, accounting for 59% of the total volume of Israeli imports. And the market share of ASEAN in the Israeli market is increasing.

Vietnam ranked the second largest tuna supplier to the Israeli market over the past three years, behind Thailand. If in the canned tuna segment, Vietnamese products are not competitive with the same products from Thailand. In the Israeli frozen tuna segment, Vietnam was the leading and has almost no competitors. 


Ms Van Ha

Email: vanha@vasep.com.vn

Tel: +84 24 37715055 (ext. 216)

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