Agriculture exporters suffer as China rules tighten

By Thi Ha   July 1, 2019 | 02:47 am PT
Agriculture exporters suffer as China rules tighten
Durian prices in the Central Highlands province of Lam Dong have fallen by 36-42 percent as the fruit is not qualified to be exported to China. Photo by Shutterstock/Thy Le.
Unsold stock and falling prices have hit Vietnamese seafood and agriculture producers hard as Chinese regulations restrict their entry.

Nguyen Van Thinh, deputy chairman of Nui Thanh District in the central province of Quang Nam, said the district has 930 tons of dried squid that it cannot export.

China used to import this squid via unofficial channels, but with the recently tightened import policy, the country only accepts traceable dried squid through official channels, leaving tons of the seafood product stuck at ports, he said.

Agriculture produce is also facing difficulties. Durian prices in the Central Highlands province of Lam Dong have fallen 36-42 percent to VND35,000-45,000 ($1.49-1.92) per kilogram as traders have not been able to export a large amount of this fruit to China.

Farmers in the province are selling their durian alongside the national highway or sending them to Ho Chi Minh City to sell at lower prices just to break even.

The situation is even worse for jackfruits. Their prices have fallen 77-93 percent to VND5,000-18,000 ($0.22-0.78) per kilogram in the southern province of Hau Giang compared to the peak of VND70,000-80,000 ($2.99-3.42) per kilogram in the first quarter. Prices have plunged as large quantities of the fruit do not qualify for China exports.

New regulations on Vietnamese fruit and seafood imports, introduced early this year, require agricultural products to have their origins (region, producer, etc.) declared to Chinese customs.

From May 1, fruits wrapped in hay or other materials that may contain harmful microorganisms are not accepted.

Local farmers are struggling to meet up the new standards. Although changes to China’s imports policy this year were announced earlier last year, farmers’ lack of knowledge of the issue has resulted in their produce being declared unfit for export.

Lai The Hung, head of the Lam Dong Crop Production and Plant Protection Division, said that only 800,000 origin stickers for durian have been registered. Many farmers have overused plant protection substances, which fails to meet export standards, he added.

Nguyen Van Kiet, head of the agriculture department in Chau Thanh District, Hau Giang Province, said that they have discouraged jackfruit cultivation because demand is too dependent on China.

However, in the last two years, demand through unofficial channels surged, resulting in the area for jackfruits doubling over last September. So, with China exports becoming difficult, local farmers struggle to sell their large harvests, Kiet said.

China’s new requirements have caused fruit and vegetable exports from Vietnam to decrease by 6.3 percent year-on-year in the first quarter of 2019 to $680 million, throwing in doubt the $10 billion export goal Vietnam has set.

China is a crucial export market for Vietnam’s agriculture produce. It accounted for $2.58 billion, or 73.3 percent of Vietnam’s total fruit and vegetable exports, in 2018.

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