Vietnam ought to improve fruit quality for exports
The export value of vegetables and fruits reached at US$3.2 billion in 2020 and fruits account for 80 percent of export turnover.
For many years, plantation area has increased sharply, but it is facing many challenges from global competitors as well as in the importing country which are increasing fruit cultivation gardens and applying the most advanced technology in farming.
Statistically, Vietnamese fruits have been so far exported to 60 countries and territories around the world. Currently, about 1,749 fresh fruit growing areas in the country have been granted export codes and 1,200 codes have been granted to establishments packing fresh fruit for export.
Presently, fresh fruit traded globally is worth about US$240 billion yearly while the value of processed fruit products is about $270 billion a year. Therefore, it can be said that there remains huge room for Vietnam's fruit industry to develop, especially when Vietnam has joined many free trade agreements (FTAs).
Dang Phuc Nguyen, General Secretary of the Vietnam Fruit and Vegetable Association (Vinafruit), said that in 2021, Vietnam has been making good use of advantages of the international economic integration process with the EU through the European Union Vietnam Free Trade Agreement (EVFTA), the United Kingdom and the North Ireland through the Vietnam - UK Free Trade Agreement (UKVFTA).
Local fruit and vegetables have been able to enjoy a wealth of opportunities to penetrate the EU following the EU's pledge to offer a substantial reduction of 94 percent out of the total 547 tax lines placed on these products. The value of Vietnamese fruit exports to the EU, the US, and Japan markets has increased over the years although the export quantity is still low.
Nevertheless, experts in the field forecast that Vietnam will bump into big challenges in the upcoming time. Mr. Dang Phuc Nguyen analyzed that Chinese farmers have been successful in growing red-flesh dragon fruit; therefore, Vietnam can only export white-flesh dragon fruits to China.
Meanwhile, the export value of Vietnam's dragon fruit reached about US$1.1 billion a year accounting for 30 percent of the total export value of vegetables and fruits. Furthermore, Chinese farmers have not only grown dragon fruit but also short-term trees with fast harvest time such as mango, bananas to gradually limit imports. This will also negatively affect the export of these fruits of Vietnam to the Chinese market.
According to a representative of Vinafruit, many tropical countries have also started to grow fruit for export and they have become fierce competitors of Vietnam. For instance, over the past few years, Cambodia has increased the area of mango and banana cultivation for export to China and gradually occupied Vietnam's market share. The country is also expanding dragon fruit growing area.
Similarly, farmers in Thailand, Malaysia, and Taiwan ( China) also grow dragon fruit for export. Additionally, Vietnamese fruits also face great challenges in the US, EU and UK markets because South American countries also grow tropical fruits for export and the cost of shipping to the US is cheaper thanks to their proximity. Many South American countries are focusing on building large sample fields, applying advanced technologies in harvesting and preserving; hence their output and quality meet high export standards.
Many agricultural experts have frankly said that for many years, Thailand has excelled in quality, packaging, design thanks to its focus on science and technology and capacity of preservation and processing. Thailand can preserve peeled fruits such as litchi, mangoes for 50-60 days for export.
Vietnam needs to invest more in post-harvesting technologies to improve the competitiveness of its farm produce, including fruits and vegetables, in the global market, experts have said. Poor harvesting and preservation technologies result in a decline in their value. Moreover, Vietnamese fruits have been found to have microbial infections and residues of veterinary drugs have been badly affecting their prestige.
Director of LTP Import Export BV Netherlands Pham Van Hien said that the State needs to support investment in seed research and preferential loans so that farmers can switch to planting according to safety standards, and help businesses improve the quality of crop protection and post-harvest management to compete with rivals in the world.
Deputy Director of Chanh Thu Fruit Import-Export Company Ngo Tuong Vy commented that although Vietnam has a plan for raw material areas, there is no form of sanctions for spontaneous planting areas whereas Thai farmers who want to plant anything must ask for permission. If the fruit is harvested early, it will be sanctioned by this country's agency by putting the name of the farm on a warning system; therefore, the company may be suspended from import by the partner.
Le Thanh Tung, Deputy Director of the Department of Crop Production under the Ministry of Agriculture and Rural Development, said that the department has drafted the project "Development of fruit trees nationwide to 2025 with the orientation towards 2030, management of planting areas."
Accordingly, areas with local specialty fruit trees will be zoned for intensive farming and production in a safe direction. These big fields are produced according to the criteria and requirements of the importing country. In addition, local administrations will manage the planting area by digitizing, granting the planting area code, and having sanctions for spontaneous products or increased acreage. Code-granted mango growing areas in Thanh Binh District in the Mekong Delta Province of Dong Thap will be the first pilot project.
China has agreed to resume importing Vietnamese dragon fruit and bananas through the Kim Thanh International Border Gate in Lao Cai province following a hiatus due to COVID-19.