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NEWS: Lack of standards hampers agricultural exports

Vietnam is regarded as a global food basket. However, agricultural exports face many difficulties because of limited quality standards.

Pham Tuan Long, deputy head of the Export-Import Division of Agriculture, Forestry and Fishery under the Ministry of Industry and Trade’s Foreign Trade Agency, said the export growth of Vietnam’s agricultural, forestry and fishery products in the 2011-2017 period averaged 8.6 percent. In the first eight months of 2018, top export products, each with a value of more than US$1 billion, included seafood, fruits and vegetables, coffee, cashew nuts, rice, rubber, and wood and timber products. Exports to major markets like the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN), the Republic of Korea (RoK), the EU, the US, China and Japan increased significantly during the reviewed period.

According to Pham Tuan Long, based on commitments in free trade agreements (FTAs), import tariffs in various markets will be removed or reduced, creating favorable conditions for Vietnam’s exports. In particular, the recently signed trade agreement among Pacific Rim nations known as the Comprehensive and Progressive Agreement for Trans-Pacific Partnership (CPTPP) and the coming EU-Vietnam Free Trade Agreement (EVFTA) will help Vietnam improve production capacity of agricultural, forestry and fishery products.

However, Vietnam’s agricultural products face many challenges, with growing protectionist trends, such as requirements on pandemic risk analysis and plant quarantine set by the US for Vietnamese fresh fruit. In addition, all imports into Australia, especially agricultural, forestry and fishery products must meet requirements on food safety and hygiene. The Imported Food Control Act allows the Australian Department of Agriculture to implement imported food inspection programs, posing the biggest barrier for Vietnam’s exports to Australia.

These strict requirements pose challenges for Vietnamese agricultural products, which are mostly produced on a small scale, resulting in uneven quality, and difficulties in controlling food safety and hygiene, and ensuring traceability.

Dinh Thi My Loan, chairwoman of the Association of Vietnam Retailers, said Vietnamese agricultural products are plentiful, but low in added-value. To address the issue, the connectivity and produce in the value chain must be strengthened. In addition, Vietnam should adopt strategies to promote branding, improve design and packaging, and build a standard production process.

Ngo Thi Minh Huong, director of the Center for Development and Integration, said standards should be applied to production. Quality agricultural products will enhance consumer confidence in Vietnamese goods.

Source: http://ven.vn