Fruit and vegetables exports expected to hit 2.5 billion USD in 2016

The Ministry of Agriculture and Rural Development (MARD) have announced that the total export revenue of domestic fruits and vegetables is expected to reach 2.5 billion USD in 2016.

This figure will surpass the export revenue of rice for the first time. The fruits and vegetables exports of Vietnam have grown significantly in recent years, from exporting 235 million USD to 36 markets in 2005 to exporting 1.8 billion USD to 60 markets in 2015. Specially, the export value in 2015 reached a record high 1.8 billion USD, 28.57 per cent higher than in 2014, making it one of the top five farming export products in Vietnam, alongside rice, coffee, cashew nuts and rubber.

As of July this year, Vietnam's total fruit and vegetable exports had hit 1.4 billion USD, representing a jump of 32 percent year-on-year and leaving other key agricultural product exports far behind. This was mainly due to higher demand in China’s market, said the Vietnam Fruit and Vegetables Association. According to the General Department of Customs, China was the largest export market for Vietnam’s fruit and vegetables, accounting for 70 percent of the national export volume of these products in the first half of the year.

In recent years, Vietnam’s exporters have promoted vegetable and fruit exports to both traditional and new markets, including markets with strict rules, such as the US, the European Union (EU), Japan, the Republic of Korea, Canada, Australia and New Zealand. These efforts have brought positive signals including the acceptance of several choosy markets such as the US, Japan and EU for various fruits like longan, lychee, mango, dragon fruit, green grapefruit.

Vietnam is now focusing on the EU, Canada, ASEAN, Eastern Europe, the Middle East and South America. It will reduce the dependency of Vietnam’s fruit and vegetables exports on China and also lead Vietnam’s products to higher export value markets. The agricultural sector is speeding up negotiations with countries aiming to boost export of key fresh fruits, including dragon fruit, rambutan, longan, litchi, mango and pomelo. Many other demanding markets will continue to open their doors to Vietnam’s fruits and vegetables this year.

According to Vietnam Fruit and Vegetables Association, consumers in countries like the US and Australia are developing a taste for Vietnamese fruit.

Besides the diversifying fruit export market efforts, technology plays a key role in the increase of Vietnamese fruit and vegetables exports. Vietnamese fruit and vegetable producers have applied new technology including heat and radiation treatment to cultivate their crops, allowing them to meet the higher requirements of more demanding markets.

Vietnamese farmers have applied modern science and technology to produce fruit products, increase output, improve quality and establish regions specialising in fruit production.

Fruit farmers in the Mekong Delta region are now producing fruit products using good agricultural practices (GAP) to meet export market requirements, the MARD said.

Many production models have been implemented and certified for rambutan and green-skin pomelo in Ben Tre Province, Nam Roi pomelo in Vinh Long Province, Vinh Kim star-apple, Hoa Loc mango and pineapple in Tien Giang Province and mango in Dong Thap Province with VietGAP and GlobalGAP certification.

However, Vietnam’s fruit and vegetables products still face many technical barriers in export markets. In the period of deeply international integration, especially once the Trans-Pacific Partnership Agreement comes into effect, tariff duties will be one the decline and technical barriers like quarantine and food hygiene would be on the rise.

Vietnamese fruit and vegetable exports are facing the toughest challenge on plant quarantine. It takes at least one year, 3-4 years on average, or even ten years to get permissions on fruit import.

Each country owns different climate conditions and has dissimilar plant mechanisms so a generalized plant quarantine protocol is not possible. Countries set different technical barriers with a view to protecting their domestic cultivation.

The quality and safety of fresh fruit remain challenges for vegetable and fruit exporting, especially in strict markets such as the US, Japan, Australia and New Zealand. Production of vegetable and fruit products for export must meet VietGAP and Global GAP standards.

Quality control is vital to increase fruit and vegetable exports, Mr. Hoang Trung, head of Plant Protection Department under MARD. Vegetable and fruit producers should also follow import regulations closely to create favourable conditions for local vegetable and fruit products to enter export markets.

The process to pave the way for Vietnam’s fresh fruits to reach the foreign markets takes at least two years. Besides fruits, Vietnam can look to expand its export of frozen, dried or processed fruit. The most important issue to be addressed in order to sell more Vietnamese fruit to the foreign markets is ensuring food safety and hygiene throughout all steps from growing, harvesting to processing

Vietnam’s fruit and vegetable exports are expected to maintain their momentum in the next few years due to higher demand, according to a report released in May, 2016 by Zion Research, a global agricultural market research company. The world’s fruit and vegetable market reached 203.3 billion USD in 2014 and is expected to hit 320 billion USD in 2020, said the report.