Vietnam fruits, vegetables struggle to enter overseas market

By Dang Khoa   October 19, 2018 | 03:15 am PT
Vietnam fruits, vegetables struggle to enter overseas market
A dragon fruit farmer in Vietnam. Photo by VnExpress/Nguyen Khoa
Vietnamese fruit and vegetable exporters are struggling with many countries increasing quality standards for them.

Dragon fruit, which accounts for 40 percent of Vietnam’s fruit and vegetable exports in value, is facing the biggest challenge as China, which used to buy 80-90 percent of Vietnam’s dragon fruit mainly through border gates, has tightened the import through the channel. 

The importer has also improved standards on quarantine and food safety and origin tracking to Vietnamese fruits, including dragon fruits.

Facing the difficulties, many traders have recently stopped buying the fruit in some major growing regions.

As a result, prices of the fruit have plummeted. Recently farmers in Binh Thuan Province told VnExpress that prices are down 90 percent to VND1,500-2,000 ($0.06-0.08) per kilogram.

Vietnam’s dragon fruit exports might see more pain since China may reduce purchases after expanding its own cultivation, warned by industry insiders. 

Saigon Giai Phong Online quoted Vietnam’s Plant Protection Department as saying China has planted dragon fruit on 20,000 hectares in places such as Guangxi and Hainan. 

The department said this area would increase to 30,000 hectares next year.

Chili, which accounts for a third of Vietnam’s total vegetable export value, is struggling in the Malaysian market.

Malaysia is among the three largest buyers of chili from Vietnam along with South Korea and China.

But it announced to cease licensing the import of chili from Vietnam from September 14 after detecting excessive residues of plant protection products in chili shipments.

Together with dragon fruits and chilli, papaya has struggled to enter overseas market.

The South Korean Ministry of Food and Drug Safety has informed Vietnam’s Plant Protection Department that it discovered genetically modified papaya in shipments from Vietnam.

South Korea does not allow entry of genetically modified organism (GMO) products.

A spokesperson for a large papaya exporter in southern Long An Province said that farmers knew about this policy, and some GMO fruits went into the consignments despite their efforts to prevent it.

It is working with farmers to grow non-GMO fruits, the spokesperson added.

Nguyen Quoc Vong, a researcher in the GMO fruit industry, said the trend in developed countries is to consume non-GMO products.

He warned that Vietnam would be shut out of high-end markets if it exports GMO products since food safety standards around the world are rising.

“Our competitors like Thailand do not grow GMO produce, so they will have an advantage in high-end markets where we cannot compete,” local newspaper Thanh Nien reported him as saying.

Vietnam earned $3 billion from fruit and vegetable exports in the first nine months of this year, up 15.2 percent over the same period last year, according to the General Statistics Office.

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