Farm produce exporters urged to look at markets other than China

Friday, Feb 07, 2020 17:38

The Lao Cai International Border Gate in the northern mountain province of Lao Cai. — Photo

Exporters of agricultural products, especially dragon fruit, must improve quality and focus on the domestic and new export markets and reduce their dependence on the Chinese market amid the current epidemic outbreak, experts have said.

Speaking at a meeting in Long An Province on Wednesday, Le Minh Duc, director of the local Department of Industry and Trade, said the province’s exports of dragon fruit have been badly hit since a number of Chinese importers have cancelled their orders.

Hong Thai Duong Company, a Chinese importer that buys a whopping 30-40 per cent of the province’s entire exports, has cancelled imports of some 300 containers of the fruit (15 tonnes per container at VND40,000- 50,000 per kilogramme) to be delivered between January end and February end.

The company has paid a compensation of VND4,000 per kilogramme.

Another Chinese importer, Phu Quy Company, cancelled around 200 containers, but later said it would buy though at VND5,000 or lower per kilogramme.

Long An has 9,587 hectares under dragon fruit, and produces around 320,000 tonnes a year, according to its Department of Industry and Trade.

Some 70-80 per cent of the fruit is exported to China, with the rest going to Thailand, Singapore, South Korea, Europe, the US, Canada, Japan, Malaysia, Dubai, New Zealand, India and Australia besides the domestic market, it said.

Between the end of January and the end of February, Long An Province is expected to have inventories of around 90,000 tonnes of the fruit.

Of this, 2,000 tonnes are in cold storage where they can be kept for 30 days.

New markets

Duc, director of the Long An Province Department of Industry and Trade, said it is important to boost the domestic market and expand to other markets to avoid the overwhelming dependence on China.

“The province will focus on growing clean and organic dragon fruit with traceability to expand to more choosy markets.”

The Government should consider building a distribution centre in China to ensure reliable distribution of Vietnamese goods there, he added.

Nguyen Minh Toai, director of the Can Tho City Department of Industry and Trade, attributed the dependence on the Chinese market to the lower quality demand there.

Dragon fruit output in the Mekong Delta is quite large, especially in Long An, Can Tho, Vinh Long and Tien Giang provinces, he said.

The current difficult situation has forced farmers to aim for higher standards like VietGAP and GlobalGAP, he said.

The prices of watermelon and jackfruit have also dropped dramatically to just VND8,000-10,000 per kilogramme, he said.

The Tien Giang Department of Industry and Trade said the province would connect farmers with supermarkets and convenience stores in the province such as Bach Hoa Xanh, Big C and Co.opmart.

Nguyen Huynh Trang, deputy director of the HCM City Department of Industry and Trade, called for boosting domestic consumption and processing of dragon fruit to overcome the current difficulty.

She also suggested that retailers should meet with the Long An Dragon Fruit Association and officials from various provinces and cities to discuss solutions.

Clean production

Duc said the current difficulty is in fact an opportunity for the agricultural sector to switch to “clean” production with clear traceability and adopt advanced technologies.

“The Chinese market has long been an easy one, not requiring high standards, and bought large quantities.”

Other more choosy markets such as Singapore, South Korea, Europe, the US, Canada, Japan, Malaysia, New Zealand, or Australia require much higher standards, he said.

The suspension of cross-border trade between Viet Nam and China due to the current novel coronavirus scare has left hundreds of tonnes of crops stuck on farms and on the border with that country.

Speaking at a recent meeting, Minister of Agriculture and Rural Development Nguyen Xuan Cuong said the agriculture sector is likely to be the worst hit by the coronavirus outbreak in China.

China is a huge market, accounting for 22-24 per cent of the country’s agricultural exports, he pointed out.

He called on agriculture departments around the country to build scenarios to cope with the outbreak with concrete measures. — VNS

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