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Vietnam shrimp sector adopts tech in quest for clean supply chain

Along Vietnam’s tropical coasts, shrimp farmers stand chest-deep in artificial ponds tending to their “troupes” of the shellfish.



They have helped Vietnam join the ranks of Asian exporters that have flooded the world with the cheap crustacean, contributing to a doubling of the global shrimp trade over the past decade. But the explosion in consumption has brought problems of overfishing, disease, pollution and forced labor that the industry has been trying to tackle for years.

One response has been to move farming from mangrove forests to artificial pools, which allow water quality and climate to be controlled. Last week Viet Uc, Vietnam’s biggest hatchery, opened a $17 million processing plant that turned it into the country’s only fully integrated shrimp business, handling every step from growing larva to exporting grown shrimp.

The new factory, according to the company, is 70% automated and covers an area equal to 14 soccer fields in Bac Lieu, a southern Mekong Delta province known for wind turbines and ethnic diversity.

One change supporting the shrimp industry’s transition to artificial ponds is the adoption of technology like recirculating aquaculture systems (RAS), which continuously filter and reuse water. Environmentalists say this method can be sustainable, allowing high production volumes with less wastewater and a lower threat of ecosystem destruction. But diners, who have seen shrimp evolve from a luxury to a staple of all-you-can-eat buffets, may have to accept higher prices, as analysts say some of the technology comes with hefty upfront investments.

In a similar vein, Viet Uc says it uses “flow-through” systems that periodically take water in and out of the ponds. It also says its shrimp are bred using molecular and “quantitative genetic technology” to yield “better adaptation [and] stronger resistance to diseases.”

“Sustainable here [means] for the environment, with a farming process with little water change, but also sustainable for consumers, with absolutely no use of antibiotics or chemicals,” the company said in a statement.

Vietnam is the world’s top exporter of frozen shrimp after India and Ecuador but only recently has started to adopt RAS, which should be more efficient and involve less groundwater pumping than traditional farms, according to Andrew Wyatt, Mekong deputy head at environmental group IUCN.

“In intensive shrimp farms, you’re in the open environment,” he said in an interview. “You raise the shrimp crop and then you discharge the effluent-laden water with all the shrimp waste.”

Traditional shrimpers, he added, use antibiotics against “boom-bust” disease cycles triggered when they add river or canal water, potentially bringing in disease, to avoid altered water chemistry due to evaporation.

“The salinity goes up, the ammonium levels go up” as water levels fall, Wyatt said. “The chemical balance in the pond goes out of kilter. That’s what kills the shrimp.”

The endless appetite for shrimp comes from its versatility, as made famous by the “Forrest Gump” character Bubba, a Vietnam War soldier who rattles off 21 shrimp recipes. Such popularity pushed global exports to a value of $22 billion by 2021, roughly twice the size of a decade earlier, according to the Observatory of Economic Complexity (OEC). Thailand was the top shipper until 2012, when it was overtaken by India, and later also by Vietnam, Indonesia and China, OEC data shows.

Wild prawns are rarer in the industry, which has not fully recovered from overfishing and reports of forced labor. In the mid-2010s, investigations by Guardian and AP journalists exposed slavery in Southeast Asian fishing, including for crustaceans.

Tech is enabling a path to “commercially vibrant land-based shrimp farming” but it is still early days, said Steve Hedlund, communications manager at Global Seafood Alliance, a trade body.

“RAS shrimp is still boutique,” he told Nikkei Asia. “Costs are relatively high, and production globally is relatively low. Plus, RAS shrimp must be sold at a premium to high-end markets. It cannot compete as a commodity.”

RAS farming is found in places from the Philippines to Taiwan and ranges from lower-cost, manually operated tanks to sophisticated large-scale systems, Wyatt said.

Vietnam has more than 100,000 shrimp farms by some estimates, often small family businesses, contributing to frozen exports worth $2.3 billion in 2021, the OEC said. Over at Viet Uc, the new plant marks the last step for the company to cover the sector’s whole value chain.

Hedlund said that technology like water circulation, which is used to cultivate all manner of seafood, brings predictability to the business, but he added a caveat: “There is no method of farming animals, aquatic or terrestrial, that is without risk.”

Source: Nikkei Asia



Vietnam among world’s earliest in banking digital transformation: forum

Vietnamese banks are among the earliest in the world to make the digital transformation, experts have said.



Speaking at the Financial Services – Retail Banking Forum in Ho Chi Minh City last week, Vu Viet Ngoan, former chairman of the National Financial Supervisory Commission, said the habit of using digital products had become more prevalent than ever in Vietnam.

More than 30% of the population uses banking apps, second globally only after China (41%), according to Ngoan.

Vietnam’s banking and financial sectors would continue to play a key role in establishing a “fully digitised, human-centred system”.

He also pointed out that the digital transformation in the country would be an important process of how banks and financial institutions analyse, interact and satisfy their customers.

The government has set a target of increasing financial inclusion to cover more than 80% of the adult population by 2025.

Phan Thanh Duc, dean of the management information system faculty at the State Bank of Vietnam’s (SBV) Banking Academy, said Vietnam had recorded a surge in digital payment everywhere from online marketplaces to small convenience stores and even vegetable and fruit vendors.

Le Duc Anh, director of the Ministry of Industry and Trade’s Centre for Information and Digital Technology, pointed out that technologies such as blockchain, AI, cloud computing, machine learning, and customer data collection, management and analysis were being adopted.

The banking sector had invested over 15 trillion VND (639.22 million USD) in digital transformation as of the end of last year, according to a report by the SBV.

Digital payments have been growing at 40% for the last four years, one of the world’s fastest digital transformation rates.

According to the report, more than 95% of Vietnamese banks have a digital transformation strategy.

Around 90% of banking transactions are handled through digital channels with 74.6% of adults having a bank account.

As of March around 3.71 million mobile money (or mobile payment) accounts had been opened, over 70% in rural, remote and disadvantaged regions across the country.

Non-cash payments have also seen significant growth, with 82 credit institutions offering internet-based payment services and 51 offering mobile payment services as of the end of last year.

There are 48 licensed intermediary payment organisations.

Digital transformation has helped banks bring down the cost-to-income ratio to 30%, on par with regional and international standards.


But experts say the legal framework for digital financial services is inadequate. 

It is vital to improve institutional frameworks and upgrading infrastructure, they say.

The lack of human resources with up-to-date skills is another major challenge to digital transformation, they warn.

Organised along with the forum was a fair introducing the advancements needed for the financial industry’s digital transformation.

The event was hosted by the Vietnam Association of Securities Business, the Vietnam Digital Communications Association, and the International Data Group.

Source: Nhân Dân


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Vietnam’s first unicorn VNG reports VND1,500 bln after-tax loss in 2022

Vietnamese tech giant VNG Corporation recorded an audited after-tax loss of VND1,534 billion, an increase of VND220 billion compared to its independent report.



The fact that the unicorn recorded more expenditures connected to taxes, intangible fixed assets, and allowance for financial investment activities led to the greater loss after taxes that the company experienced.

VNG aimed for a revenue of VND 10,178 billion in 2022 and anticipated a loss of VND993 billion after accounting for taxes. Therefore, the management unit of Zalo has merely met about 77% of the revenue plan, and the loss after taxes surpasses the projections.

The company recorded a loss of more than VND90 billion after taxes for the first quarter of 2023, with a net loss of more than VND40 billion during the same time period. The increase in net revenue to 1,852 billion Vietnamese Dong was 11% more than the same time the previous year.

The majority of the reason for VNG’s loss in the first quarter of 2023 stems from the fact that the firm is still under pressure from huge operational expenditures. The selling expenses for the company totaled VND544 billion, and the administrative expenses totaled VND337 billion. On the other hand, as of the end of March 2023, the total amount of the company’s undistributed profit after taxes amounted to VND 5,052 billion.

VNZ shares have been subject to trading restrictions since May 25 on the Hanoi Stock Exchange. This is because the company was late in filing its audited financial accounts for 2022 by more than 45 days, which is in violation of the laws. The trading of shares will take place solely on Fridays.

With a price of VND 771,900 per share as of the market’s close on May 29, VNZ continues to be the most expensive stock on the stock exchange.


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India car rental app Zoomcar leaves Vietnam after 1.5 years

India’s car rental app Zoomcar will leave Vietnam from end-May, 1.5 years after its debut in the Southeast Asian country in October 2021, the business announced Tuesday.



For customers, the app stops service from May 24, and will serve any bookings dated before May 24. Zoomcar will fulfill its obligations of payments to car owners normally until June 30.

In Vietnam, Zoomcar initially operated in Ho Chi Minh City and had plans to expand to Hanoi and Danang in 2023, as part of its target to become the biggest car rental service in Vietnam, said Zoomcar Vietnam CEO Kiet Pham. Vietnam’s car rental market, with a compound annual growth rate (CAGR) of 14%, can reach $884 million in 2027, he added.

The business attributed the decision to the market dynamics and projected complicated developments.

The car rental market in Vietnam has recently witnessed many new players, leading to fierce competition.

In March, Pham Nhat Vuong, chairman of Vietnam’s largest private conglomerate Vingroup, set up a new company, named GSM (Green-Smart-Mobility) JSC, offering electric car and motorbike rental and taxi services. It is the first green and integrated transport service model deployed in the world to popularize an electrified mobility experience, according to the company.

In December 2021, MoMo, a top e-wallet app in Vietnam, launched its car rental service. The move was in cooperation with Mioto, a HCMC-based car rental business. MoMo said its service would deliver cars to users’ homes and is available across major cities and provinces of Vietnam.

Foreign businesses also participate in the market. In 2017, MP Executives and Enterprise Holdings Inc. formed a partnership to launch Enterprise Rent-A-Car in Asia Pacific, starting with Vietnam. Enterprise Rent-A-Car is among the largest transportation solutions providers in the U.S.

In 2019, U.S. car rental business Hertz returned to Vietnam with initial operation in HCMC, after first-time operation in 2012. The Vietnamese franchisee, named New City Rent A Car, aims to serve foreigners in Vietnam and businesses with long-term demand to hire cars for staff.

Source: The Investor


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