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Fruit, vegetable export targets unlikely to be achieved in 2020

Fruit and vegetable exports are unlikely to hit the target of 4-5 billion USD set for this year, according to the Vietnam Fruit and Vegetables Association.

Dang Phuc Nguyen, the association’s general secretary, said exports were worth 513 million USD in the first two months of this year, a year-on-year decline of 11.9 percent.

Total export value for the full year is expected to be just over 3 billion USD, down from 3.74 billion USD 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,” he said.

He added that exporters are striving to sell more to other markets to make up for the decline in shipments to China.

Nguyen Hong Son, president of the Vietnam 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.

But he noted that 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.

According to Nguyen, to boost export to the US and Europe, cultivation methods must be changed to apply global good agriculture practices or higher.

He said storage and packaging technologies must be improved to enable 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,” Nguyen said.

He recommended that in addition to boosting exports, firms would also need to pay close attention to the lucrative domestic market of 100 million.

"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 Hanoi, Ho Chi Minh City, and Da Nang 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.

Son 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,” he said.

Besides, firms needed to seek measures to minimise intermediary costs so more consumers could access the products, he said.