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China’s tightened imports could hurt Vietnamese farm produce: forum

Monday, December 24, 2018, 11:44 GMT+7
China’s tightened imports could hurt Vietnamese farm produce: forum
Durians are harvested from a farm in Da Lat City in the Central Highlands region of Vietnam. Photo: Tuoi Tre

Though Vietnam-grown farm produce remains popular with Chinese consumers, agricultural exports from Vietnam are set to face huge hurdles in meeting new standards to enter China from 2019.

From June 1, 2019, all Vietnamese farm products must have food safety certification and origin traceability in order to be approved for export to China, officials said at a forum of agricultural exporters in Ho Chi Minh City on Friday.

Vietnam’s northern neighbor has imposed a 50-percent import tax on Vietnamese rice since June 2018, seriously hurting one of Vietnam’s crucial exports.

As of the end of November, only 1.3 million out of 5.8 million metric tons of Vietnam’s exported rice was bound for China.

“China now accounts for only 22 percent of Vietnam’s total rice exports, compared to 30 percent in previous years,” said Nguyen Ngoc Nam, general director of Vietnam Southern Food Corporation (Vinafood 2).

It is not expected that this number can be improved by the end of this year, Nam said.

Alongside increased tax, tightened regulations have also played a part in cutting Vietnam’s rice exports to China.

Out of 150 member enterprises of the Vietnam Food Association, only 21 are authorized by Chinese authorities to export rice to the 1.3-billion-people market.

“We have submitted requests for other businesses to be added to the list [of approved exporters] but the Chinese side has not responded,” Nam said.

Rice is not the only Vietnamese farm produce to face new hurdles entering China, as fruits grown in the Southeast Asian country are also subject to tax and technical barriers when imported into China.

China currently only fully sanctions the import of dragon fruits, watermelons, rambutans, mangoes, longans, lychees, bananas and jackfruits from Vietnam.

Chinese authorities are considering expanding the list to include other fruits and vegetables such as durians, grapefruits, passion fruits, sweet potatoes, coconuts, sugar apples, and mangosteens, Tran Thanh Nam, Vietnamese Deputy Minister of Agriculture and Rural Development, told Friday’s forum.

A perfect example of how tightened Chinese regulations have hurt Vietnamese agricultural exporters is the case of Vietnamese durians, which have plunged in price after China imposed a new regulation earlier this year requiring that the fruits’ origin be traceable.

It was a blow to Vietnamese durian growers, who had quickly expanded their farm area for two to three years prior to the announcement due to increased demand from China.

Before China tightened control on durian imports in November, Vietnamese durians unofficially made their way into China through Thailand, where the fruits are labeled as Thai-grown to bypass Chinese customs.

“Vietnamese enterprises need to focus on producing high-quality produce for export to China to target consumers with high spending power,” said Wei Xiang Qian, a representative of Sunwah Group from Liaoning, China.

“There are roughly three million consumers [in China] falling into this segment,” Wei said.

According to the Chinese entrepreneur, Vietnamese fruits have an advantage for their unmatched tastiness, making them popular with Chinese consumers.

Liaoning Province, in northeastern China, has one of the country’s harshest winters, when fruits and vegetables are scarce and expensive, said Xing Jun, a representative from a local distributor of agricultural produce.

“If Vietnamese enterprises invest in improving the quality of their produce, there is still a lot of space in this market in the future,” said Deputy Minister Nam.

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Tuan Son / Tuoi Tre News

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