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|Tim Westbrook (left), an inspector at the US Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service, at the Son Son Irradiation Company in HCM City’s Binh Tan district. Photo: VNA|
Vietnam will further work with the US to mitigate challenges related to its export of fresh fruits to the latter, which has recently been disrupted due to the COVID-19 pandemic, heard a recent press conference in HCM City.
Dr Hoang Trung, head of the Plant Protection Department, told the press conference on September 25 that his department would coordinate the US Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service (APHIS) and the US embassy to take measures to prevent export disruptions due to the pandemic.
Vietnam resumed exports of fresh fruits to the US recently after an interruption since early August due to the pandemic, Viet Nam News said.
Because of the outbreak, APHIS personnel stationed in Vietnam returned home in March, resulting in a stoppage in irradiation and inspection of fruits.
After the APHIS staff returned home, the US embassy was authorised to monitor the irradiation, but it worked very few hours a day and then, since August 7, completely stopped the work.
Pen Petlock, a representative of the embassy, said the US mission has worked with the Plant Protection Department under the Ministry of Agriculture and Rural Development to bring Tim Westbrook, an inspector at the US Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service, to Vietnam to continue with an on-going pre-clearance programme.
Westbrook, who arrived in Vietnam on September 2, has completed his COVID-19 quarantined period and began his task at the Son Son Irradiation Plant in HCM City’s Binh Tan district, the only such plant certified by the US in Vietnam, according to VietnamPlus.
Westbrook said the programme has been in place since 2008 which exports fresh fruits from Vietnam to the US.
|Farmers load dragonfruits onto a truck in the central province of Binh Thuan. Photo: VnExpress|
Under the programme, Vietnam exports six varieties of fruits to the US - dragon fruit, rambutan, longan, lychee, star apple, and mango - worth around US$20 million a year.
It uses cutting-edge food irradiation technology and a range of plant pest safeguard standards and protocols, he said.
Last year Vietnam exported seven million kilogrammes of fruits to the US through the programme, he added.
APHIS is an agency under the US Department of Agriculture that supervises the irradiation process at the Son Son Irradiation Plant.
Besides the US, some other markets like Australia and New Zealand also require irradiation for exporting fruits, but in the absence of more irradiation plants Vietnam’s fruit prices are not competitive since fruits from across the country must first be transported to HCM City, which increases costs, experts said.
The US remains the second largest importer of Vietnamese fruits and vegetables after China.
While Vietnam’s fruit exports to the market have grown steadily, they only account for a small proportion of demand.
According to the Ministry of Agriculture and Rural Development, despite the pandemic, Vietnam’s exports of fruits and vegetables to the US in the first seven months of this year rose by 9.8 percent year-on-year to $77 million.
Last year they were worth $150 million after rising by 7.2 per cent.
$2.26 billion worth of vegetables and fruits exported in eight months
|Farmers prepare lychee for exports in the northern province of Bac Giang, June 10, 2020. Photo by VnExpress/Giang Huy.|
Vietnam exported $2.26 billion worth of vegetables and fruits in the first eight months of the year, a decrease of 11.3 percent compared with the same period last year, Vietnamnet reported.
The exports of key products decreased significantly, including dragon fruit (- 7.7 percent), bananas (- 9.1 percent), watermelons (- 37.7 percent), durian (- 66.3 percent), and longan (- 78.5 percent).
The dragon fruit price in Binh Thuan, Dong Nai, and Dak Lak provinces decreased sharply in August to VND3,000-3,500 per kilogram, while it was VND6,000-7,000 per kilogram in late July.
Merchants said dragon fruit prices have declined again because the fruit ripened at the time coinciding with the Covid-19 resurgence in many countries. As demand from importers is weak, merchants have stopped collecting dragon fruit from farmers.
The same occurred with longan in Hung Yen province. After the second Covid-19 outbreak, sales have been going very slowly. Farmers sell the highest-quality longan at just VND13,000-14,000 per kilogram. Sometimes the price has plunged to VND7,000-8,000, while it was at least VND30,000 per kilogram in previous years.
Meanwhile, in the southern province of Ben Tre, saltwater has affected the quality of coconuts. Merchants pay only VND6,000 for a dozen coconuts.
|Employees of a fruit enterprise in the Mekong Delta package mangoes for export. (Photo: Vietnamnet)|
In terms of market development, the Ministry of Agriculture and Rural Development (MARD) said that there are positive signs about exports after great efforts by the ministry to negotiate with the US Department of Agriculture. APHIS has appointed officers in charge of supervising the treatment of fresh fruits to be exported to the US after a period of interruption because of Covid-19.
Besides China, the biggest market for Vietnam, other fastidious markets also buy Vietnamese fruits. Red flesh dragon fruits are exported to Japan and Russia, while frozen durians are exported to Australia.
A report found that China was the biggest buyer of Vietnam’s farm products in the first seven months, which consumed 58.2 percent of exports. However, exports to the 1.4 billion consumer market decreased by 28.9 percent to $1.15 billion.
By contrast, exports to the Republic of Korea (RoK), the US, Japan, and Taiwan increased significantly in the first seven months of the year. Particularly, exports to Thailand soared by 215 percent.
Regarding vegetable and fruit imports, Vietnam imported $810 million worth of these products in the first eight months, a decrease of 36.1 percent over the same period last year. The US, China, and Australia were the biggest suppliers./.
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