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Fruit and vegetable exports are expected to fetch US$600 million this year, easily surpassing the target of $470 million, according to the industry business grouping.
Speaking at an international conference titled “Viet Nam Tropical Fruit and Vegetables” in HCM City yesterday, Viet Nam Fruit and Vegetables Association (Vinafruit) deputy chairman Huynh Quang Dau said exports had been worth $515 million in the first 10 months, a 40.6 per cent increase.
Dau, who is also general director of the An Giang Fruit-Vegetables and Foodstuff JSC, said exporters had begun to use advanced preservation methods like irradiation to find acceptance in choosy markets like Japan and the US.
Most are aware of the importance of quality control and food safety, he said, adding that many of the big ones had obtained HACCP, ISO, Kosher, and Halal certificates.
The country sells fruits and vegetables to more than 50 nations and territories, with China, Japan, Indonesia, the Netherlands, and Russia being the largest importers.
The main items are fresh fruit like dragon fruit, watermelon, litchi, longan, and mango, vegetables like cabbage and cauliflowe, processed fruit and vegetables like canned vegetables, dried fruit, juice concentrates, and frozen products.
Doan Xuan Hoa, deputy general director of the Department of Processing and Trade for Agro-Forestry Fisheries Products and Salt Production, said Viet Nam’s advantage of varied geographic and climatic conditions allowed it to diversify its fruit and vegetable production, giving the sector great potential.
But development remained stunted due to small production scales and outdated technologies in planting, harvesting, processing, and preservation, leading to high costs and low quality and yield, he said.
Though the sector had seen steady export growth in the last 10 years, revenues were modest compared to that from other farm produces, he said.
Dau said the sector lacked Government support since it was not a major export earner.
A shortage of nurseries to supply seedlings and the poor seedling supply system caused difficulties for farmers and enterprises, he said.
The small scale of fruit cultivation meant exporters could not accept large orders, he added.
Hoa said while there are 60 fruit and vegetable processing facilities, they mostly operated at 30 per cent of capacity due to lack of raw materials.
Global demand for fruits and vegetables would continue to increase, offering local businesses a good opportunity to boost exports, but they should adapt to meet the rising food hygiene and safety standards set by importing countries, he said.
To step up and stabilise fruit and vegetable exports, attendees said, Vietnamese businesses need to plan long-term, develop brands, and apply good agricultural practice standards.
They should use modern preservation and transportation technologies to reduce post-harvest risks and losses, they said.
Dau said the sector would strengthen research to develop high-yield and -quality seeds and create fruit and vegetable growing zones to improve quality and ensure supply.
It would also step up promotion to boost exports, he said.
The Ministry of Agriculture and Rural Development should work with local authorities on zoning plans for fruit and vegetable farming, he said.
Delegates called for establishing close links between businesses and farmers so that the distribution system could be revamped to ensure farmers were not forced to make distress sales in case of bumper crops.
Vinafruit has called on the Government to assist farmers with producing and preserving vegetables and fruits and with agricultural insurance, and offer incentives to businesses to promote their products in foreign markets.
Viet Nam has set itself an export target of $1.2 billion by 2020.
It has more than 1.5 million hectares under fruit and vegetables and an average annual output of more than 6.5 million tonnes of fruits and over 7 million tonnes of vegetables.
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