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All’s well with fruit exports to China following new regulation   2009-07-05 - VNN/TN

Dragon fruits are harvested at an orchard in the south-central province of Binh Thuan.

 Fruit exports to China are running smoothly after a new quality assurance program obligated growers and packagers to register with the northern neighbor this week, officials said.

According to a bilateral trade agreement effective Wednesday, watermelon, longan, lychee, banana, cassava and dragon fruit grown in Vietnam for export to China must be harvested and packed by registered orchards and packaging facilities.

China must also provide the Vietnamese government with a list of its registered orchards and fruit packing factories that export to Vietnam.

Early Wednesday morning, hundreds of fruit-filled Vietnamese container trucks lined up at the Tan Thanh Border Gate in the northern province of Lang Son.

The same was true on the other side of the gate, where Chinese trucks waited to enter Vietnam.

There were worries that the new origins-tracing requirements would slow down customs clearance procedures, but Vietnamese truckers said everything went very well.

“Though today is the first day the new program is effective, everything was still very convenient,” said Phan Van Giau, who drove a container truck carrying more than 20 tons of dragon fruit to China from the south-central province of Binh Thuan.

He said he didn’t have any trouble crossing the border as his shipments were packed in cartons with the appropriate labels.

According to Tan Thanh Customs Bureau, nearly 100 trucks transported fruit from Vietnam to China on Wednesday. The trucks carried an average 15 tons of produce each.

Meanwhile, about 70 trucks transported various fruits from China to Vietnam on the same day, the bureau said.

The transfer of fruit through the Lao Cai Border Gate in the eponymous province and the Mong Cai Border Gate in Quang Ninh Province also ran smoothly, officials say.

Tran Van Nghia, deputy head of the Tan Thanh Customs Bureau, said the origins-tracing agreement was a good chance to boost Vietnamese fruit brands. He said it would help assure Chinese consumers that it was safe to eat Vietnamese fruits.

Forty-three provinces and cities in Vietnam have registered their fruit orchards and packaging facilities for the right to export to China, said Phung Huu Hao, deputy head of the National Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries Quality Administrative Directorate.

The lists of registered farms and facilities, which were sent to China on Monday, will be updated in case of any changes or new information, online news service VietNamNet reported.

Pham Thanh Binh, deputy head of Tan Thanh Plant Quarantine Station, said Chinese customs officials were not just concerned with fruits’ origins. He said they also checked for chemical residues and the presence of insects or pests in fruit and agricultural produce.

China is the biggest buyer of Vietnamese produce. The country imported Vietnamese agricultural products worth US$1.9 billion last year, mainly latex, cashew, cassava, coffee, fruits and vegetables.

The Vietnam Fruit and Vegetables Association said export numbers in first months of this year showed “optimistic signs” and that the sector could earn a total export turnover of $400-450 million on the year, according to a statement posted on the government website Thursday.

Vietnam exported $127.8 million worth of fruit and vegetables in the first four months of this year, 8.2 percent more than the same period last year, the statement said.

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