With a population of more than 1.4 billion, accounting for 18.7% of the total world population, China's agricultural imports make up about 10% of total global agricultural trade. It is the world's largest import market for agricultural products.

As Vietnam’s export of agricultural products to China via border gates are now under serious congestion, the Ministry of Industry and Trade has reported to the Prime Minister its plan to promote official exports of agricultural products to China.

According to statistics from the Vietnam General Department of Customs, Vietnam's goods exported across the land border are mainly to the Chinese market. Cross-border trade between Vietnam and China in the 2018-2021 period grew at an average rate of 15% to 30% per year. 

In 2021, the total import-export value through Vietnam's land border gates to China reached 41.85 billion USD, up 45.8% compared to 2020, including 15.57 billion USD of export revenue, up 68.5%, and 26.28 billion USD of import revenue, up 35.04% compared to 2020. Export turnover to China accounted for 81.9% and imports accounted for 83.11% of total export value through Vietnam's land border gates with the three markets of China, Laos and Cambodia.

Thus, border trade activities through land border gates are mainly with the Chinese market.

For agricultural, aquatic products and fruits imported into China, these products must be granted a certificate of traceability by the Chinese Customs. In addition to a number of regulations according to international practices, China has set its own requirements or has tightened the enforcement of previously issued regulations for imported agricultural, aquatic products and fruits. This is why Vietnam’s agricultural exports to this market have been stagnant for a long time.

According to the Ministry of Industry and Trade, unprocessed agricultural products officially imported from Vietnam are subject to a value-added tax of about 9% in China, so Chinese importers prefer the form of importing these products through border residents (each resident is exempted from tax for goods worth 8,000 yuan) and they require Vietnamese traders to bring their goods through the sub-border gate or border markets to avoid value added tax.

Vietnam has signed a free trade agreement (FTA) with China. The negotiation on import tax has been completed, and many agricultural products have enjoyed 0% import tax in China.

However, negotiations on the control of goods quality is still slow, so until now, only nine fruits (dragon fruit, watermelon, lychee, longan, banana, mango, rambutan and mangosteen) of Vietnam have been allowed to officially export to China. The remaining fruit can only be exported to China in the form of resident exchange, leading to Vietnamese exporters’ dependence on secondary border gates, which are normally closed when epidemic occurs.

In particular, the negotiation on quarantine procedures is also slow so the percentage of Vietnamese fruits that have to go through China’s inspection is up to 100%, resulted in a prolonged customs clearance time, which makes the congestion at border gates longer, especially during the harvest season.

Statistics show that among goods that are stuck at the northern border, the amount of goods waiting to be exported under the unofficial form via border is much larger than the quantity of goods waiting to be exported in the "official" form through the international border gate. 

"Not being eligible for official export also explains why other forms of transport such as sea and railway are very convenient, but very few Vietnamese traders can take advantage of them," the Ministry of Industry and Trade said.

For the immediate solution, the Ministry of Industry and Trade proposes that all agricultural products exported to China must strictly comply with regulations on packaging, traceability, growing area codes, code numbers for packing facilities, goods labeling... as well as other relevant requirements. All agricultural products exported to China must be paid via banks.

In addition, the Ministry of Industry and Trade proposed that the Government continue to urge and lobby the General Department of Customs of China to speed up the completion of legal and technical procedures to open the Chinese market to as many agricultural products as possible. 

Luong Bang