Exporters of farm produce face tougher standards in China
Vietnamese exports of agricultural products must meet food safety, quality and traceability requirements to China which now requires that exports be sent through official channels only, speakers said on Thursday at a meeting held in HCM City.
Tran Thanh Nam, deputy minister of Agriculture and Rural Development, said that Vietnamese producers must change their mindset about China and improve production to meet new market requirements.
He noted that businesses in the past thought China was an easy market because of lax regulations and border control. However, that is no longer the case as standards are now much higher.
Nam spoke at an international workshop on food safety and management of imports and exports of agro-forestry-fishery products between the two countries.
With a market of up to 1.4 billion people, China is the major export market for agricultural, forestry and fishery products from Viet Nam.
The Ministry of Agriculture and Rural Development has been working closely with the General Department of Customs of China to remove obstacles and organise market information meetings, according to Nam.
"Enterprises must ensure the quality of goods, traceability of origin, and packaging labels similar to those of difficult markets such as the US, Europe, Japan, Australia and Canada, where Vietnamese businesses have followed the same regulations," he said.
Dao Viet Anh, Viet Nam's commercial counselor in China, said China would continue to be a potential export market for Viet Nam due to rising demand and purchasing power.
The Chinese government is encouraging the import of goods via official channels to meet the needs of its people, he said.
However, to comply with the new requirements of the market, Vietnamese farmers and businesses must change production and business methods, he said.
Dang Phuc Nguyen, secretary general of the Viet Nam Fruit and Vegetables Association, said the Chinese market now accounted for nearly 70 per cent of the total export turnover of fruits and vegetables from Viet Nam.
Currently, the vegetable and fruit production industry in Viet Nam is still small scale, and the percentage of farms applying VietGAP and GlobalGAP standards is still modest.
In addition, the excessive use of chemicals and substances has not been strictly controlled, Nguyen said.
"China is the main export market for Vietnamese vegetables and fruits, with turnover of over $4 billion. But this is no longer an easy market," he added.
Vo Quan Huy, director of Huy Long An – My Binh Ltd Company, said that changes in China’s import policy are not barriers to Viet Nam's agro-forestry-fisheryproducts as Vietnamese enterprises have been able to export the products to markets with stricter standards than China's, such as Japan, South Korea and the US.
The problem is that Vietnamese enterprises need to change their perception about the Chinese market, which now requires higher standards.
Chinese living standards have improved significantly, so their demand for high-quality products has also increased.
Vietnamese producers and businesses must aim at this high-end market segment from China, he added.
Last year, Viet Nam's fruit and vegetable export turnover to China reached $3.8 billion.
However, in the first six months of this year, exports to China fell slightly compared to the same period last year, reaching only $1.2 billion.
He attributed the drop to stricter requirements via official channels and the need to meet technical and quality standards, which most businesses have failed to meet, he said.
Long Yushan from the Nanning Customs Bureau under the General Administration of Customs of China, said that Chinese agencies were providing information on regulations on animal and plant management and quarantine, especially for dairy, aquatic products and fruits.
Last year Viet Nam exported $8.6 billion worth of agro-forestry-fishery products to China. As of the end of April, Viet Nam had earned $2.64 billion from exporting agro-forestry-fishery products to China, a year-on-year decline of 8.3 per cent.
Three groups of goods - fruits and vegetables, rubber, wood and wooden products – saw export turnover surpassing the $1 billion benchmark.
Viet Nam spent $2.47 billion importing farm produce from China last year.
At present, nine fresh fruits from Viet Nam are shipped through official channels to China, namely dragon fruit, watermelon, lychee, longan, banana, mango, jackfruit, rambutan and mangosteen.
The ministry is proposing that China open its market for other Vietnamese fruits such as durian, passion fruit, avocado, grapefruit, coconut, custard apple, and rose apple.
China has announced the exemption of tariffs on 33 aquatic exports under the ASEAN-China Free Trade Agreement, including lobster, tiger shrimp, marine shrimp, frozen pangasius, ba sa fish, and ocean tuna.