Hanoi treatment center a godsend for lychee exports to Australia

By    June 21, 2016 | 01:26 am PT
Australia has spared Vietnamese lychee growers from traveling a long way to export their fruit to its market.

When Vietnam’s lychee harvest comes in late May until the middle of July, farmers in Luc Ngan - a small town just north of Hanoi- must travel across the country to Ho Chi Minh City to get the tropical fruit irradiated for export to demanding markets such as Australia.

However, Australia’s Department of Agriculture has recently approved imports of lychees that are treated at a new food irradiation facility in Hanoi.

Consignments of Vietnamese lychees that are irradiated at the Hanoi Irradiation Center will then be permitted to be shipped by air or sea to Australia.

Demanding fruit importers such as the U.S., Australia and Canada require fruit to be irradiated before they enter these countries.


Lychee farmers and traders have tried to make their way into markets such as Japan, Australia and the U.S. hoping to find higher prices with more stable demand to end their reliance on China. Photo by Vu Minh Quan.

The Hanoi Irradiation Center, where fruit is treated with high-energy ionizing radiation to eliminate bacteria, extend shelf life and kill invasive pests, is expected to boost the country’s fruit exports this year.

Farmers now can save up to VND16 million ($700) per ton as they no longer have to travel nearly 2,000 kilometers from the north to the south for fruit irradiation treatment, said Hoang Trung, head of the Plant Protection Department under the Ministry of Agriculture and Rural Development.

The center is said to have the capacity of handling about 10 tons of fruit per day.

The center will help farmers cut transportation costs and time, which in turn will increase the shelf life of the fruit, said managing director of the center Dang Quang Thieu.

Last year, Vietnam exported its very first consignment of lychees to Australia and the U.S.. Even though the volume was small, just 35 tons combined, it was a significant step.

Industry experts expect more exports of the fruit in the years to come if the country can meet stricter U.S. and Australian standards and quarantine regulations.

Vietnam, already recognized as a major coffee and rice exporter in the international market, is now turning its attention to fruit and vegetables.

For now, it is still a relatively minor player on the international stage, the eighth largest fruit exporter in Asia, behind leaders China, Thailand and India.

The country's fruit exports grew rapidly to $1.85 billion last year from only $622 million in 2011, according to official figures from the Vietnam Fruit and Vegetables Association.

The government is targeting a ten-fold increase over the coming years, with crops like longan, dragon fruit and lychee being given priority.

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