|Customers buy fruits at a supermarket in HCM City. The domestic market has high demand for fruits and vegetables. — VNS Photo Xuân Hương|
HCM CITY — Fruit and vegetable exports are unlikely to hit the target of US$4-5 billion set for this year, according to the Việt Nam Fruit and Vegetables Association.
Đặng Phúc Nguyên, the association’s general secretary, said exports were worth $513 million in the first two months of this year, a year-on-year decline of 11.9 per cent.
They were expected to be just over $3 billion for the full year, down from $3.74 billion in 2019, he said.
“Fruit and vegetable exports have faced difficulties this year due to the Covid-19 epidemic. Exports to China, the biggest buyer, might decrease significantly from last year.”
Exporters were striving to sell more to other markets to make up for the decline in shipments to China, he said.
Nguyễn Hồng Sơn, president of the Việt Nam Academy of Agricultural Sciences, said: “In the last three years many markets with high-quality requirements such as the US, Australia, New Zealand, Europe, and some Asian countries have opened their doors to many kinds of Vietnamese fruits.
“It is a good sign to prove to countries around the world that our products can fully meet the global market’s quality requirements.”
“But, we need to enhance trade promotion programmes to further boost exports to foreign countries.”
"Most fruits and vegetables are exported in fresh form, and enterprises need to invest more in processing facilities to meet market demand, particularly in Europe," he said.
According to Nguyên, to boost export to the US and Europe, cultivation methods must be changed to apply global good agriculture practices or higher.
“Storage and packaging technologies must be improved to enable our products to last for over 30 days so that they can be shipped to Europe and the US by sea.
“Currently our exports ... are completely done by air, and so prices are high and export volumes are low.”
In addition to boosting exports, firms would also need to pay close attention to the lucrative domestic market of 100 million, Nguyên said.
"With their increasing incomes, Vietnamese are consuming more products that are good for health, and so demand for fruits and vegetables has increased significantly in recent years," he said.
According to the association, big cities such as Hà Nội, HCM City, and Đà Nẵng have huge demand.
Statistics from Saigon Co.op show that sales of fruits and vegetables at its supermarket chains have gone up significantly to around 1,100 tonnes a month.
Sơn said, “Enterprises have so far focused on exports and paid little attention to the domestic market.
“When we have export problems, we recognise that the domestic market is very important.
“We should not think that the domestic market will accept low quality. Nowadays consumers in big cities pay close attention to the quality of products.”
Concurring, Nguyên said, “Demand for fruits and vegetables in the domestic market is high, but it does not mean people will eat whatever you grow.
“The producers must ... ensure product quality so that their products have a steady market.”
Sơn said imports of fruits and vegetables into Việt Nam had increased consistently, and people thought that they were of good quality, meeting hygiene and food safety standards.
“Good propaganda is needed to make Vietnamese consumers understand that Việt Nam's products also meet hygiene and food safety standards now and can be exported to many countries that have high-quality requirements.”
Besides, firms needed to seek measures to minimise intermediary costs so more consumers could access the products, he said.
He pointed out that while fruit prices were very low at the farm, their prices in the market were much higher, putting them out of reach for many consumers.
He also urged firms to process fruits into beverages for the domestic market.
“The demand for beverages ... is great. We only have a few companies investing in processing fruits into fruit-based drinks. It is necessary to increase the scale of processing.”
After focusing mainly on exports for a long time, some large fruit distributors have turned their attention to the domestic market.
A spokesperson for Vina T&T said since last August the company had been opening stores to sell export-quality fruits in the domestic market.
They had achieved good sales growth, he added. — VNS