China no longer ‘easy’ on Vietnamese agricultural produce: minister

By Bao Ha, Thanh Thu   May 23, 2018 | 04:43 pm PT
China no longer ‘easy’ on Vietnamese agricultural produce: minister
A trader wait amongst baskets containing fresh produce on sale at a wholesale market in downtown Hanoi. Photo by AFP
Reliance on China for agricultural exports has hurt Vietnamese farmers and businesses.

Vietnam should expand its agricultural exports to other markets instead of being dependant on China where standards on export items are being tightened, a meeting heard on Tuesday.

China is now following international practices, tracing food origins and performing quality checks on imported agricultural produce, including those from Vietnam, said Tran Tuan Anh, Minister of Industry and Trade at the National Assembly meeting.

The northern neighbor used to allow 100 Vietnamese businesses to export rice, but now only 27 of them are permitted, Anh said.

For years, China’s fluctuating agricultural demand has also been hurting Vietnamese farmers. Many Chinese dealers have cancelled their deals with Vietnamese farmers, resulting in an oversupply of seasonal produce that are often exported to China through informal channels like watermelon and chili.

Last year, volunteers in Hanoi had to start “rescue campaigns” to sell nearly 300 tons of watermelons which were being left to rot as there was a lack of demand.

“If we keep focusing on the Chinese market and don’t look for alternatives, the consequences will be grave,” the minister said, adding that Vietnam should have new policies to remove export barriers.

China is by far the biggest importer of Vietnam’s agricultural produce, accounting for 77 percent of total export turnover in the first four months of this year, whereas the U.S. only made up about 2.8 percent and Japan 2.7 percent.

Large population, proximity and established trade relations explain China’s dominance. The country is also known to offer Vietnamese farmers attractive incentives.

Vietnam exported about $36.37 billion worth of agriculture and fisheries products last year, according to the Ministry of Agriculture and Rural Development.

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