Farm produce prices slump as Covid-19 hits exports

Wednesday, Feb 19, 2020 08:00

Fruit on sale at Thu Duc Market in HCM City. Disruption of Viet Nam-China trade due to the outbreak of Covid-19 has put Vietnamese agriculture exports at risk. — VNA/VNS Photo Hong Nhung

The suspension of trade in seafood and agriculture products at some northern border gates with China as a measure against the novel coronavirus (Covid-19) has caused a demand-supply imbalance in the market.

The fisheries sector is facing a number of difficulties because of the epidemic.

According to the Vietnam Association of Seafood Exporters and Producers, fisheries exports to China, where Covid-19 is raging, were 45 per cent down in January to US$51.5 million.

VASEP general secretary Truong Dinh Hoe said exports were down from the same period last year partly because January coincided with the Lunar New Year holidays which interrupted exports for 10 days.

The outbreak in China has also had a serious impact on several other industries in Viet Nam including transport, tourism and retail.

Last year China was the largest importer of Vietnamese tra fish, buying $622.7 million worth, or 31 per cent of the country’s total exports. Many processors continue to see China as a strategic market this year thanks to steady export growth and the good prices and diverse segments in that country.

So any interruption in Viet Nam-China trade such as the current one hits the tra fish segment hard, he said.

Lobster exports to China too have been hit, causing prices to drop by nearly half in the local market.

Tran Thi Trang, a seafood restaurant owner in HCM City, said lobster prices are now around VND 700,000 ($30.2) per kilogramme, VND 400,000-500,000 ($17.3-21.5) down.

Thanks to the sharp price drop, her restaurant sells more than one tonne a week, including 300-400kg during weekends, she said.

Alaska lobster and king crab prices have dropped by 30-50 per cent.

The consumption of that seafood is increasing sharply but cannot pick up the slack caused by the slump in exports.

In this context, VASEP has advised member businesses to keep abreast of information from Chinese partners to dispatch their consignments as soon as customs clearance is permitted to minimise preservation and storage costs.

They have also been told to rework farming and processing plans to avoid excessive supply.

VASEP plans to propose that the Ministry of Agriculture and Rural Development and the Government should issue policies to support affected businesses and farming households such as by reducing loan interest rates and extending payment deadlines.

Covid-19 has caused problems to the agricultural sector, which is thought to be the worst affected, especially dragon fruit, watermelon and rice exports

But it is also an opportunity to change production and business methods to adapt to new challenges and difficulties.

Minister of Agriculture and Rural Development Nguyen Xuan Cuong said it was necessary to develop both short- and long-term scenarios.

“In order to take advantage of opportunities, it is necessary to develop large-scale production and co-operation chains to find other directions for agricultural output.”

Deputy general director of Central Group, Nguyen Thi Phuong, said her company was buying agricultural products from farmers in the provinces of Binh Thuan, Gia Lai, Khanh Hoa, Long An, and Tien Giang.

“This support programme is being carried out at all 37 Big C and GO! Market supermarkets nation-wide until the situation is controlled. We expect to buy 80 tonnes of dragon fruit and watermelon per day.”

At Big C and GO! in the north, watermelon is sold at VND6,200 per kilogramme and dragon fruit at VND15,500. In the south, they are sold at VND4,900 and VND10,900. These prices are around a third of that on normal days.

The demand for agricultural products was very high in her supermarket chain, Phuong said.

It had asked MARD for details of agricultural produce which cannot be exported so that it could set up proper marketing programmes in the domestic market, she added. — VNS

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