As a tropical country,Vietnam has advantages of various kinds of fruits with good quality to serve exports, especially to the US market, a vast market of 320 million people.
Vietnamese vegetable exports have constantly increased over years, from just US$406.5 million in 2008 to more than $1 billion in 2013, making it advance to the list of products with export turnover exceeding $1 billion.
In the first ten months of this year, exports of fruits and vegetable earned the country US$1.26 billion, posting an increase of 43.3% over the same period of last year. Of which, exports to the US market reached US$$48.44 million, a year-on-year increase of over 15%, the data of the General Department of Vietnam Customs showed.
Among Vietnam’s 10 major fruit and vegetable importers, the US is ranked forth, accounting for 3,8% of the market share. China was on the top with 26.8% of the market share, followed by Japan with 5% and South Korea with 3,9%.
According to many analysts, America is a very potential market for Vietnamese fruits, and exporters are having great opportunities to expand their presence here.
Currently, Vietnamese dragon fruit and rambutan are being exported to the US. Other two fruits including lychee and longan were also allowed to penetrate in this demanding market from October 6.
Vietnam is planning and working with the US authority to export more fruits like star apple and mango to this country.
Le Hai Binh, spokesman of the Foreign Ministry, said that this is a good step to boost economic ties between Vietnam and the US. Vietnam hopes the US will continue to consider expansion of import of more high-quality agricultural products from Vietnam in the near future.
Since being admitted to enter the US market in 2008, export volume of dragon fruit has risen by nearly 14-fold, from 1,000 tonnes in 2008 to nearly 14,000 tonnes in 2013.
According to the Plant Protection Department under the Ministry of Agriculture and Rural Development, Vietnam shipped 1,300 tonnes of dragon fruit to the US in the first nine months of this year and this figure is projected to reach 2,000 tonnes by year-end.
Vietnamese rambutan exports to the US also remain stable as a result of out-of-season cultivation and harvests.
However, market insiders say the current export volume is “just a drop in the ocean” if compared to the potential for development and far lower than demand for this fruit in the developed markets like the US, EU, Japan and South Korea.
For only the dragon fruit, total shipments to theU S, Japan and South Korea each year is less than 1% of total exports of this fruit. Vietnam still has to sell 80% of its dragon fruits to China, mostly via risky cross-border transactions.
Nguyen Huu Dat, Director of the Center for Plant Quarantine after Importation, said as a tropical country, Vietnam has several advantages for fruit exports that few countries have thanks to year-round orchards.
Recently, a good sign from the US markets is that the country started to import two new fresh fruits of lychee and longan from Vietnam. Dat said in late 2014 or 2015, Vietnamese star apple and mango will also be shipped to the US.
The US move to import additional fruits from Vietnam is expected to open more opportunities for Vietnamese fruits to penetrate deeper into the US as well as other demanding markets. This will also help Vietnamese exporters to diminish their reliance on the Chinese market and ensure sustainable growth.
Moreover, if the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP), in which Vietnam is an active negotiating member, is concluded successfully, Vietnamese fruits will have more benefits from exporting to the US.
The US is a hard to please market. The American are afraid of insects and chemicals used to eradicate pests. Therefore, this country has set separate regulations for imported fruits, from production and packaging process to traceability regulation and irradiation process to remove fruit flies.
According to experts, to facilitate inroads into difficult markets like the US, EU and Japan, Vietnamese exporters need to develop their production capacity to meet strict food safety and hygiene requirements.
Dao Tran Nhan, Trade Minister Counselor and Vietnam Trade Office Chief Representative in the US, said mandatory irradiation regulations and coded growing areas are the two major obstacles for Vietnamese fruit exporters.
Nhan said fruits imported into the US must be irradiated parasticides. The US Department of Agriculture also requires Vietnam to make a zoning plan for growing areas and provide related codes for its monitoring. Vietnamese fruits that have grown in coded areas will be qualified for exports to the US.
Exporters admit that small and scattered production scales and limited financial and managerial capacity are the challenges facing Vietnamese fruit exporters.
Currently, vegetables and fruits production applied VietGap and GlobalGap procedures is still limited in the country. Investment in post-harvest technology like irradiation, packaging, food safety and sanitation is also inadequate.
According to Nguyen Minh Chau, former Director of the Southern Fruit Research Institute, it should create a close link among farmers and farmers with enterprises. Due to great investment in technology, the State should support farmers to produce agriculture products following VietGap, GlobalGap procedures.
Moreover, Vietnamese fruits are not well known in the US market yet. Therefore, the Government and enterprises should invest more in marketing campaigns and have more effective promotion programs to the US firms and people to capture their trust.