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Cheap fruit imports taking sales away from domestic fruit

Just within six months, Vietnam spent nearly $900 million to import vegetables and fruits. The products are piling up at supermarkets and online markets at surprisingly low prices.

For the last two months, Mac Thi Kim Thoa in Thanh Xuan district in Hanoi has been facing higher prices ignited by gasoline price increases. Fortunately, she doesn’t have to pay a lot for fruits as imported fruit prices have been falling.

With VND100,000, she can buy 2 kilograms of apple imported from New Zealand, South Africa and the US. One kilogram of apples is priced below VND50,000.

“I bought Australian seedless grapes half a month ago at just VND39,000 per kilogram. The quality was high, and it was even cheaper than Vietnam’s Ninh Thuan products,” she said.

Dao Thi Lien, a housewife in Cau Giay district in Hanoi, said previously she rarely bought imported fruit because they were expensive. But now she buys imports more regularly as the products have become affordable.

One kilogram of kiwi, for example, is priced at VND80,000 if she buys a 3.5 kilogram box. Chilean grapes sell at VND69,000 per kilogram, while apples are below VND50,000.

“The products are even cheaper than Chinese fruits available at traditional markets and supermarkets,” she said.

At a large supermarket in Hanoi, 13 imported apple products are available and only four products have quoted prices of over VND50,000 per kilogram, while other products are priced from VND40,000 to under VND50,000.

The prices for other products at the supermarket are also reasonable: kiwi at VND80,000-90,000 per kilogram, Chilean grapes at VND70,000-80,000, Australian oranges at VND65,000 and Egyptian oranges at VND50,000.

Tran Van Thai, the owner of a fruit shop in Dong Da district in Hanoi, confirmed that some imports have very good prices. Imports from Chile, New Zealand, South Africa, Australia and the US are even cheaper than Chinese imports.

The General Department of Customs (GDC) has reported that Vietnam imported $884.3 million worth of vegetables and fruits in H1, an increase of 27.9 percent compared with the same period last year.

Vietnamese fruit in home market

A report from the Ministry of Agriculture and Rural Development (MARD) showed that the output of many fruits increased sharply in H1. Vietnam expects to have 590,600 tons of mango, 170,000 tons of litchis, VND183,900 tons of longan, 426,700 tons of pineapple, 490,800 tons of oranges, 282,800 tons of pomelos, 188,300 tons of rambutan and 1,292,000 tons of bananas. Only dragon fruit will see a slight decrease of 7.4 percent to VND606,800 tons.

Vietnam’s vegetable and fruit exports in H1 brought turnover of $1.68 billion, a drop of 17.1 percent compared with the same period last year. Of this, exports to China, Vietnam’s largest export market, dropped by 34 percent.

Le Thanh Tung, deputy director of the Department of Crop Production, said the output of major fruits in the south alone will amount to 7.3 million tons. Of this, Vietnam harvested 3.3 million tons in H1 and 4.1 million tons in H2.

If exports get stuck, the fruit is put up for sale in the domestic market. However, the fruit will have to compete with imports, which have become cheaper.

In H1, many fruits remained unsold and the prices dropped dramatically. Taiwanese variety mango sold at VND500 per kilogram, Cat Chu mango at VND8,000-10,000 per kilogram, and Australian variety mango at VND2,000-5,000.

Earlier this year, at watermelon production centers in Gia Lai, Phu Yen and Binh Dinh, the prices plunged to VND2,000 per kilogram. Dragon fruit growers also complained about losses because of the price falls.

In the market, dragon fruit and watermelon are displayed for sale in abundance on pavements, selling at just VND4,000-6,000 per kilogram. Meanwhile, bananas are offered at just VND3,000 per kilogram, which is even lower than the price of a glass of iced tea.

Tung cited FAO (Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations) reports as saying that fruit consumption in Vietnam is 68-70 kilogram per head per annum. With a population of 96 million and 15-16 million annual travelers, consumption is very high. Farmers and businesses therefore have been advised not to ignore this potential market. However, he stressed that in the home market, domestic products will have to compete with imports.

Tam An

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