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Distribution and export quality key to unlocking US market

Update: September, 24/2013 - 08:02

A revolution in the production and distribution of agricultural produce is essential to boost US exports, Nguyen Duy Khien, director general of the American Market Department, told Nong thon Ngay nay newspaper.

Do you think Vietnamese agriculture can penetrate the US market if the Trans-Pacific Partnership is signed later this year?

At present, many Vietnamese farm products, including coffee, fish, shrimp, fruit, vegetables and more are exported to the US with zero tariffs. Therefore, the signing of the TPP could formalise that encouragement for our producers to expand their presence in the US market.

Viet Nam now ranks 15th among the highest agricultural exporters to the US. Food safety standards in the US are very high, so if any country wants to export products to the US market, they must meet those benchmarks.

Among our fruit exports to the US, Thanh Long (dragon fruit) ranks first, followed by chom chom (rambutan), lychee, mangosteen, sapodilla, banana, papaya. Popular vegetables, include sweet potato, onion, garlic and ginger.

More recently, the US has made public that it would soon consider the decision to import some of our tropical fruits, such as longan, lychee, star apple and mango. How significant will this decision be for Viet Nam?

In my opinion, it's great! As at present, the US has to import up to 50 per cent of its fruits and vegetables. On average, the American people consume between 14-15 million tonnes of fruits annually; comprising mainly oranges, grape fruits, apples, banana and pine apples. So far Viet Nam has exported dragon fruits and rambutans to the US market.

Hopefully, in the near future the green light will be given to litchi, longan and sapodilla. In return Viet Nam will consider the possibility of importing some US agro-products. This is a way good way for people in the two countries to taste these products.

Currently, agricultural products exported to the US are still limited. Why?

The main problem is that we have not successfully zoned off special areas to grow agricultural products for export. Currently, we only have the dragon fruits which are grown industrially on a large scale. While longans are grown on a small scale in the two northern provinces of Hai Duong and Hung Yen (some 50km southeast of Ha Noi).

Another big problem we are facing is food safety. Our fruits are loaded with bacteria while the level of micro-organisms contained in fruit is above the required benchmarks. Additionally, some shipments of marine products have been found to have high antibiotic residues.

What should Viet Nam do to increase its export of agriculture products, particularly fruit, to the US?

The US market is not a very demanding market, but in order to capture a market niche, it is important to be able to provide sustainable supply, in term of quantity, quality and delivery.

Viet Nam also needs to put greater efforts into addressing food safety, which is a leading requirement for all exporters to the US.

The final thing I want to talk about is the importance for Vietnamese enterprises to improve their competitiveness, market knowledge and production technology to meet quality requirements imposed by the US. — VNS


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