Fruit containers stuck as China border gate closes

By Hoang Phuong, Giang Huy   February 5, 2020 | 09:00 pm GMT+7
Over 200 container trucks full of fruit stand idle near a northern border gate as the new coronavirus outbreak halts cross-border trade.
Fruit containers stuck as China border gate closes

204 containers carrying 400 tonnes of dragon fruits can be seen at a parking zone near the Tan Thanh Border Gate in the northern province of Lang Son on Tuesday. Some of them have been there for 10 days.
Dao Cong Ngoc, an officer at the border gate, said the initial plan was to open the gate on January 31 to resume trade after Vietnam’s Lunar New Year (Tet) holiday, but customs authorities of both countries agreed to keep the gate closed due to the rising severity of the novel coronavirus (2019-nCoV) outbreak in China.
Many truck drivers, including those from southern Vietnam, did not know about the development of the disease until they reached the border. They are waiting there until the gate is opened, he added.

Fruit containers stuck as China border gate closes

Nguyen Tuan Khanh, one of the drivers, said this is the first time in 20 years that he has had to wait for 10 days without clearance.
He started driving 18 tonnes of dragon fruits from the southern Long An Province on January 24 and reached the border gate on January 26; and it was only then he found out about the severity of the disease.

Fruit containers stuck as China border gate closes

A driver has to pay from his own pocket around VND1 million ($43) a day, comprising meals, parking fees and fuel to keep the cooling system running to preserve the fruits.

With most drives owning the trucks, once they collect the fruits, they are responsible for selling them, collecting the money and earning their commission.

Fruit containers stuck as China border gate closes

Hung, Khanh’s co-driver and partner, lies inside the truck most of the time to avoid the 12 Celsius degree cold weather outside. Southerners are not used to the cold weather in the north of the country.

Fruit containers stuck as China border gate closes

Many drivers gather together to warm themselves up with cups of hot tea.

Fruit containers stuck as China border gate closes

Some squat outside the trucks for some fresh air and conversation.

Fruit containers stuck as China border gate closes

Phuong, 38, went to a nearby market to buy ingredients and cook on his own to reduce spending. If the gate opens soon, he will he happy to sell the fruits, but is also worried because he will have to be quarantined for 14 days upon return, a new regulation Vietnam has issued to prevent the spread of the deadly nCoV.

Fruit containers stuck as China border gate closes

Drivers wash their clothes and dry them under their trucks.

Fruit containers stuck as China border gate closes

Those who could not wait for a long time have driven away from the border gate to sell the fruits locally at lower prices. It is estimated that dragon fruit prices have dropped 88 percent from VND35,000 ($1.5) per kilogram before the Tet holiday to VND4,000 (17 cents) now.

 
 
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