Fruit and vegetable exports drive healthy sector growth

Wednesday, May 08, 2013 15:16

Fruit and vegetable exports this year are expected to increase to US$1 billion from $829 million last year.— VNS File Photo

 by Xuan Huong

HCM CITY (VNS)— Fruit and vegetable exports this year are expected to increase to US$1 billion from $829 million last year, according to the Fruits and Vegetables Association (Vinafruit).

Speaking at the association's third-term congress organised in HCM City yesterday, Huynh Quang Dau, Vinafruit's deputy chairman, said that global demand for fruits and vegetables would increase by 3.5-5 per cent in the next few years.

Exports reached $187 million in the first four months of the year, a year-on-year increase of 10 per cent.

EU fruit and veggie ban lifted

HA NOI – On June 30, the European Union will lift a 12-month ban on the export of five types of fresh fruit and vegetables to Europe. However, the union has warned that any further transgressions will lead to a complete halt of green exports.

One year ago, Viet Nam stopped issuing quarantine certificates for goods being sent to the EU because the produce failed to meet the stringent hygiene and safety regulations demanded by people in Europe..

Nguyen Van Nga, director of the Plant Protection Department's Regional Plant Quarantine Sub-department II of the Ministry of Agriculture and Rural Development said on the sidelines of the Congress of the Vietnamese Fruit and Vegetables Association in HCM City yesterday that the temporary halt of the export of basil, sweet pepper, celery, bitter gourd and coriander would be lifted.

However, EU agencies have already warned that if another five violations are detected they will issue a ban on all fruit and vegetables from Viet Nam.

To avoid this, domestic exporters are advised to purchase fruits and vegetables produced in line with Good Agricultural Practice (GAP) standards.

Vietnamese exporters in recent years have used advanced preservation methods like irradiation to find acceptance in demanding markets like Japan and the US.

Dau, who is also general director of the An Giang Fruit-Vegetables and Foodstuff JSC, said Vietnamese fruits and vegetables were sold to more than 50 nations and territories, with China, the US, EU and Japan being the main importers.

"The EU market has high demand for baby corn, edamame and pineapple. Africa and Middle East are potential markets, also," he said.

New markets also have quality requirements on imported fruits and vegetables, but they are not as strict as those set by the US and EU, he said.Tran Ngoc Hiep, deputy chairman of the Binh Thuan Dragon Fruit Association, said that dragon fruit exports had increased and would continue to do so in the next few years.

"However, the most important thing is how to manage the pesticide residue on dragon fruit to increase export opportunities to choosy markets," Hiep said.

Viet Nam's varied geographic and climatic conditions have allowed it to diversify its fruit and vegetable production, giving the sector great export potential.

With import countries tending to raise requirements in quality, hygiene and food safety, the sector has no choice but to apply Good Agricultural Practices to ensure hygiene and safety standards, Dau said.

Meanwhile, it must focus on raising awareness among farmers about hygiene and food safety standards, he said.

Nguyen Van Nga, director of the Plant Protection Department's Regional Plant Quarantine Sub-department II, said fresh fruits exported to choosy markets must go through irradiation.

The country has facilities offering irradiation services in southern Binh Duong Province and HCM City, he said, adding that the Government plans to open two similar plants in HCM City and neighbouring Long An Province. Agencies from Japan and South Korea will inspect the two new facilities soon.

Once put into operation, the new facilities are expected to help local fruit and vegetable exporters reduce costs and preserve their goods better, Nga said.

"We plan to work with Korea and Japan to seek ways to boost exports of mango and star-apple to those markets," he added.

He said that agencies must develop measures to enable buyers to work directly with sellers.

Dau said the fruit and vegetable sector lacked Government support since it was not a major export earner.

The Government should consider developing support policies for the sector, including providing preferential loans to farmers, he said.

Many delegates at the event called for closer links among enterprises to avoid unhealthy competition. — VNS

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