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The big worry coming from foreign sourced farm produce   2010-07-23 - Thoi bao Kinh te Saigon

Foreign fruits, vegetables and other kinds of farm produce are flooding Vietnam, an agricultural country, where 70 percent of population live on agricultural products. Experts have urged to barriers to restrict imports.

Statistics show that every year, Vietnam spends billions dollar to import farm produce from other countries, while 2/3 of import farm produce come from China. Produce can be imported easily and are the same types as domestic produce.


Foreign farm produce flooding markets


At 9 pm, Thu Duc farm produce wholesale market in HCM City was still crowded. Tens of containers were standing in a long queue. Porters were seen very busy loading and unloading bags of fruit.


Truong Thi Bich Phuong, the owner of Phuong Hung kiosk, who has been selling fruits at Thu Duc Market for five years, reported that, every night, she can sell 20 tons of fruit sourced from China and Thailand. “Most of the produce here is from China. There are also some from other countries, but the volume is very modest,” she noted.


In another area of the market, one could see a lot of vegetables on display, from onions, carrots, potatoes, to ginger and cabbage, which were sourced from China, India and the Philippines. Hoa, the wholesaler of onion and garlic, mainly sells Chinese produce, about tens tons per day. Hoa also sells Vietnamese products, but the volume is small.


He calls a friend at Lang Son border gate every 2-3 days, placing orders. When asked about the popularity of foreign-sourced farm produce in HCM City, Hoa said that at least 50 percent comes from foreign countries.


Nguyen Thanh Ha, Deputy Director of Thu Duc Farm Produce Wholesale Market, estimated about 2800-3000 tons of farm produce arrives every night, including 1500-1700 tons of fruit. According to Ha, 25-30 percent of the fruits are imports, and 2/3 are from China. As for vegetables, China produce accounts for 15 percent, about 150-200 tons.


In general, Vietnamese traders like selling Chinese produce because they are much cheaper and can bring bigger profits. Hoa said that China’s garlic is priced at 37,000 dong per kilo, while Vietnam’s garlic is selling at 60,000 dong per kilo.


Regarding fruit prices, US apples are wholesaling at 43,000-45,000 dong per kilo, while Chinese apples are selling at 13,000-20,000 dong per kilo.


Technical barriers needed


Experts said that it is quite normal to import farm produce from other countries, but it is really a problem if Vietnam imports farm produce en masse and imports produce that can be offered domestically. This will make the trade deficit more serious.


Ha admitted that, currently, the market is only managing the quality of domestic produce, mostly vegetables, while it does not take any measures to control import quality.


“The imports that arrive all are packed in cartons on which there are stamps of the customs clearance agencies, therefore, we do not examine the produce. However, honestly speaking, we are not professional enough to examine the products,” she admitted


According to a HCM City Customs Agency official, procedures for farm produce imports are very simple. Importers must get produce cleared at ports, then they are carried to depots of import companies, where officials from the Plant Protection Department take samples for testing.


In mid April, the Government asked the Ministry of Industry and Trade and relevant ministries to take necessary measures to control import farm produce in order to reasonably protect domestic products as well as ensure food hygiene for Vietnamese consumers

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