Agricultural exports to China enters troubled waters

By Thi Ha, Anh Minh   January 9, 2022 | 05:48 am PT
Agricultural exports to China enters troubled waters
Shipping containers are seen at a port in Hai Phong City. Photo by Reuters/Kham.
The Chinese partners of several Vietnamese exporters have asked the latter not to send shipments by sea until a new decision is made.

Sweet potato producer Nhat Thanh has a contract to export 50 containers of Thai jackfruit and sweet potatoes every month to China. The company and its Chinese partner agreed to export 10 containers in advance by sea.

However, before shipping the goods, they received a notice from the Chinese partner that the import was suspended due to many unavoidable reasons, Huynh Ngoc Co, director of the company, told VnExpress.

The partner said the government of China was tightening import activities starting from the beginning of 2022. Chinese ports were congested because of the slow pace of clearance under the country's Covid-19 prevention policies.

"We are very confused with this sudden decision. Fortunately, the goods had not been cut and packed, so they were temporarily diverted. They will return to this market if there is a new announcement from the partner," Co said.

According to the Vietnam Fruit and Vegetable Association, export activities by sea to China has been very slow the past week. Many orders are still on the sea and have not yet arrived at the port. There a risk of cumulative loss if the port is congested, the association said.

"The Chinese side has reported that they can only check about five vegetables and fruits containers from Vietnam every day due to strict Covid-19 inspection regulations. Many partners have informed Vietnamese businesses to limit exports by sea," said Dang Phuc Nguyen, general secretary of the Vietnam Fruit and Vegetable Association.

Next week, when China's seaport staff take an early Lunar New Year break, it will make customs clearance even more difficult.

Nguyen said strict quarantine regulations for ship crews caused transshipment operators at ports in southern China to suspend services for at least six weeks during the Lunar New Year holiday. He recommended that Vietnam's agricultural products should limit export shipments during this time.

China has also tightened checks on imported goods and their transport, leading to congestion of Vietnamese container trucks at land border gates over the past month. As of Dec. 4, 2021, as some 2,460 container trucks, with 60 percent carrying fresh fruits, remained stranded at border gates in Lang Son, according to the provincial Department of Industry and Trade.

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 for agricultural, forestry and fishery products behind the U.S., posting an export turnover of $8.4 billion in the first 11 months of the year, accounting for 19.2 percent of Vietnam’s total agricultural exports.

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