The global financial crisis has severely impacted exports including tra fish, frozen shrimp, and rice.
From 2007, fruit and vegetable exports have often seemed the agricultural sector’s best hope, maintaining double-digit growth.
United Nations Food Agriculture Organisation (FAO) notes that the international demand for fruit and vegetables increases by an annual average of 3.6 percent. The annual 2.8 percent increase in output lags behind.
Target within reach
Like rice, cashew nuts, and seafood that have risen to US$1 billion over the past decade, the Ministry of Industry and Trade (MoIT) says fruit and vegetable export turnover is likely to hit the US$1 billion landmark by 2015.
According to Vinafruit, businesses earned US$305 million from fruit and vegetable exports in 2007, US$407 million in 2008, US$628 million in 2011, and US$829 million in 2012 – an average growth rate of 25 percent per year.
An Giang Fruits, Vegetables, and Foodstuffs Joint Stock Company (Antesco) Director Huynh Quang Dau noted export turnover has increased by 17 percent in the first four months of 2013.
The Ministry of Agriculture and Rural Development’s (MARD) Plant Protection Department has worked on removing the technical and trade barriers that prevent fruits like dragon fruit, rambutan, and longan from penetrating the lucrative US, Japanese, and Australian markets. As of June 30, the EU will grant Vietnam quarantine certificates authorising fruit and vegetable exports to its member nations.
The MARD said the US$1 billion target is achievable this year if businesses can meet the Good Agricultural Practice (GlobalGAP) standards and conduct post-harvest preservation activities.
Expanding production, increasing quality
Former New South Wales Ministry of Agriculture Advisor Dr. Nguyen Quoc Vong, says in international trade transactions, Vietnam’s key agricultural export commodities such as rice, coffee, and rubber volumes are each worth an annual US$10 billion, while tea, cashew nuts, and pepper volumes are worth US$3 billion annually. Fruits and vegetables have posted highest volume worth of nearly US$103 billion per year.
Despite fruit and vegetable exports capitalizing on Vietnam’s climactic advantages, they lag behind other farm produce exports. Vietnamese fruit and vegetable greatly rely on the Chinese market for around 60 percent of its exports.
Farm produce was crucial to the national economy successfully weathering slow international growth in 1997 and since 2008. But periodical fluctuations are unavoidable. Over the past two years, all key agricultural exports have taken a hit, with rice exports bearing the brunt of the difficulties. Efficiency over the long term is another pressing issue.
Some key fruits and vegetable exporters are still optimistic with the recent opening of markets like the US, Australia, the EU, and Latin American.
Thanh Long Hoang Hau Binh Thuan Co. Ltd Director Tran Ngoc Hiep says dragon fruit export volume has grown by 20 percent in the first four months of this year, with value surging 30 percent against the same period in 2012.