Vietnam fears US ban on rice exports: govt official

By VnExpress   October 10, 2016 | 11:01 pm PT
Vietnam fears US ban on rice exports: govt official
Experts say the government should reorganize the country's agriculture-only zones to better control rice quality. Photo by Reuters
Farmers in Vietnam are allowed to use the active chemicals found by the U.S. in the rejected rice shipments. 

There is growing concern that Vietnamese rice exports may be banned by the United States in the wake of a series of pesticide residue violations.

In the first four months of this year, the United States rejected 1,700 tons of Vietnamese rice, mostly fragrant rice, jasmine broken rice, brown rice and high-quality white rice, the Vietnam Food Association cited the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) as saying.

From 2012 to August 2016, 412 containers, or 10,000 tons of Vietnamese rice shipped to the U.S., were returned due to hygiene and safety issues, the FDA statistics also show.

The FDA said it found eight active chemicals in the Vietnamese rice shipments higher than permissible limits set by the U.S. Agriculture Department.

Vietnam, however, allows farmers to use all of these eight chemicals to grow rice, said the Agriculture Ministry, which has sent a working team to the U.S. to clarify the situation.

Vietnam’s agricultural authorities have also urged local exporters to tighten control over the quality of rice and inspect pesticide levels, the Vietnam News Agency reported.

There is a growing concern that Vietnamese rice exports might be banned from the U.S. market, said Le Van Banh, head of the Agency of Processed Agroforestry and Fisheries and Salt Production.

Vietnamese exporters struggle to control the origin of domestically-grown rice because they often have to buy through local traders, Banh explained.

Professor Vo Tong Xuan, a rice economist, said the lack of origin guarantee has made Vietnamese rice less competitive on the international market.

He added that Vietnamese exporters usually mixed rice of various qualities to stay competitive on price and pay more attention to quantity rather than quality.

“Not until they get whistled are they aware that their way of doing business has backfired on them,” said Professor Xuan.

The professor suggested the government reorganize the country's agriculture-only zones to control the quality of rice.

“We are behind Thailand and Cambodia in terms of rice quality. We must come to accept that there is no other better way than improving quality at the cost of reducing quantity,” Xuan said.

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