VIETNAM: Experts fear that fruit export growth might be unsustainable

In 2013, Vietnam, for the first time, earned $1 billion from fruit exports. A lot of Vietnamese fruits have become favored in the world market, including dragon fruit, mango and rambutan.


Especially, Vietnamese rambutan exporters have successfully dislodged Thailand and Malaysia, the two biggest rivals, from the US market. While Thailand and Malaysia can only provide rambutan seasonally, Vietnam can export the fruit all year around. The great advantage has been taken by Vietnamese enterprises to compete with Thai and Malaysian exporters.


However, farmers and exporters have been warned that the export turnover growth may be unsustainable.


The story of pitaya


Market analysts have pointed out that Vietnam’s fruits have been exported mostly to China across the border line, which consumes 64.5 percent of the total export turnover. The heavy reliance on the market would make Vietnam suffer once Chinese importers suddenly stop importing fruits from Vietnam.


Pitaya is an example. The pitaya growing area in Vietnam only accounts for 3.1 percent of the total fruit cultivation area, but pitaya bring 55 percent of the total export turnover. Vietnam is the biggest pitaya exporter in the world. However, its major targeted market remains China, which consumes 77 percent of the total output. Meanwhile, only four percent is exported to Europe, 3 percent to the US and 1.5 percent to Japan.


Meanwhile, many other countries, including Thailand, the Philippines, US, Japan and Israel, have been trying to grow pitaya as well. China has just successfully grown pitaya on a 20,000 hectare land area in Guangdong and Guangxi. The pitaya area in the two Chinese provinces alone is approximately equal to the total growing area in Vietnam (25,000 hectares).


Will Vietnam’s pitaya fall into disgrace in the world market in the future once there are so many new rivals?


When asked about this, Tran Ngoc Hiep, Director of Hoang Hau (Queen) Pitaya Company in Binh Thuan province said he still has not found the solution to the problem. The only thing he can do is to take full advantage of the weather conditions. “China can only grow pitaya in June, July and August due to the weather and soil conditions. Meanwhile, we can grow pitaya all year round. Therefore, we can export products in the months when there are no Chinese products,” he explained.


Dr. Ngo Ngoc Trung Lap from the SOFRI, a research institute, also said that Vietnam only can take the advantage as the only grower in the world, while it is still weak at technology and brand. These would be the big disadvantages for Vietnam, if the other countries with advanced technologies also grow the fruits.


Also according to Lap, one of the important things Vietnam needs to do to penetrate more deeply into the world market is obtaining the agreements with imports markets about phytosanitary requirements. It seems that Vietnam is off the track when negotiating with other countries on the issue.


“I cannot understand why the competent agencies have been focusing on negotiating with the markets which set very high standards. Meanwhile, they have not thought of negotiating about the standards with China, the market which consumes 2/3 of Vietnam’s fruit exports,” he said.


Source: VietNamNet

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