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Food imports stuck at HCM City ports   2010-09-09 - Nguoi lao dong, Tien phong

More than 500 containers (23-25 tons per container) of imported food, including frozen meat, seafood materials and dried items, have been stuck at Cat Lai Port in HCM City for the last week. The deadlock has also been occurring at other ports in the city.



Doan Ngoc Tho, the owner of a company specializing in importing frozen meat, confirmed that, over the last two weeks, more than 20 containers of frozen meat imports have been stuck at the port. “Every day, we spend 40 million dong on electricity to keep the imports frozen and for storage fees,” Tho complained.


Do Ha Nam, Director of Intimex in HCM City, also reported that his company has ten containers of frozen meat arriving daily, but they cannot obtain customs clearance.


Seafood and dried foods have also been languishing at the ports. Nguyen Thi Thu Sac, Director of Hai Nam Company, has imports that cannot be put into processing because they have not been cleared yet at the ports. Sac lamented that her company is facing the risk of being fined because they are behind schedule now.


The deadlock, according to importers, results from Circular No. 25 issued by the Ministry of Agriculture and Rural Development, which took effect on September 1. The circular aimed to halt the uncontrolled importation of meat products that cannot meet food safety requirements. The document aims to tighten restrictions on imports to ensure consumer safety and benefit.


Under the circular, food imports must meet many new requirements. It stipulates that import countries must provide lists of manufacturers to Vietnamese agencies for examination and certification. Importers also must show certificates on food hygiene granted by competent agencies of the export countries. In addition, they have to present import permits and certificates on food hygiene granted by Vietnamese agencies.


A lot of import consignments arrived at the ports without these documents.


Nguyen Xuan Binh, Director of Veterinary Centre No. 6, observed that the centre has done what it needs to do. They have taken samples from import consignments for testing and granted certificates as requested. However, the certificates are not enough for customs agencies, which claim that imports also must present certificates on food hygiene as well.


To date, no agency in Vietnam has been assigned the power to grant certificates of food hygiene safety.


According to Nguoi Lao Dong, importers have contacted different state management agencies, from the Ministry of Agriculture and Rural Development to the Ministry of Healthcare, but they still cannot receive help. Some agencies said granting certificates is not their job, while others claim they do not have the function of granting certificates.

According to Binh, it is very difficult now for any separate state management agency to settle the problem, stressing that they need to sit together to discuss solutions.

While waiting for state management agencies, importers must now spend big sums to keep their imports at ports. Nam from Intimex warned that if the frozen meat imports cannot be cleared soon, meat prices on the domestic market may escalate in the context of blue ear pig epidemics.


The Vietnam Association of Seafood Exporters and Producers (VASEP) also maintained that it is very difficult to implement the new regulations, because many countries are not cooperative. Many seafood processing companies may go bankrupt because they cannot import materials for production.

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