Agriculture exports suffer as China tightens Covid-19 inspections

By Thi Ha   November 6, 2021 | 11:59 pm PT
Agriculture exports suffer as China tightens Covid-19 inspections
Farmers harvest dragonfruits in the central province of Binh Thuan. Photo by VnExpress/Viet Quoc
China's careful scanning of packing and transportation means for the Covid-19 virus is hurting Vietnam’s agricultural exports and putting the produce at risk of getting damaged.

The intensified inspection regime has forced exporters to spend a lot of time waiting at ports and borders.

In some cases, the quality of perishable agricultural products has been affected, said Le Ba Anh, deputy head of the National Agro-Forestry-Fisheries Quality Assurance Department (NAFIQAD).

"We have spoken directly to the Chinese Customs Department on the matter but they said this is a mandatory regulation for dealing with the complicated development of the pandemic," he said. "There have been quite a lot of Vietnamese fruit batches that have been suspected of having the Covid virus on their packaging or on vehicles."

Tang Cheng Wei, President of the Pingxiang International Fruit Association in Guangxi, China, said 100 percent of Vietnam’s agricultural products exported to China must be inspected for the virus while the rate is just 30 percent for Thailand’s. Chinese authorities want Vietnam to sign a protocol soon that would expedite the customs clearance process.

Under the protocol, only 30 percent of each batch exported to China will be subjected to inspections, he said.

In September, China, which is Vietnam’s second largest export market behind the U.S., had temporarily ceased the import of dragon fruit from Vietnam after detecting the novel coronavirus on the packaging. It had also reported a similar detection on Vietnamese mangosteens early August.

Seafood export to China has also faced difficulties, said Anh of the NAFIQAD. Since last year, China has maintained a slow pace in checking and supplementing the list of Vietnamese businesses qualified to sell seafood to China.

Apart from more stringent inspections, China has reinforced its sanitary and phytosanitary (SPS) regulations on Vietnamese agricultural products.

Deputy Director of SPS Vietnam, Ngo Xuan Nam, said that between January and October, China had made a total 42 announcements about SPS changes imposed on Vietnam’s goods.

Chinese agriculture authorities have recently issued a list of more than 10,000 maximum residue limits for imported products. Compared with the document issued in 2019, the new list adds 81 more types of plant protection drugs to the list and 3,000 types of products subjected to the residue limit.

China is one of Vietnam's top trading partners. The import-export turnover of agro-forestry-fishery products between the two countries had grown strongly from $8 billion in 2015 to $11 billion last year.

China was Vietnam’s second largest export market of agricultural, forestry and fishery products behind the U.S., posting an export turnover of $7.5 billion in the first 10 months of the year, accounting for 19.3 percent of Vietnam’s total agricultural exports.

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