Agriculture struggles with higher standards

Important sector: People selling vegetables at a market in Vietnam. The country is one of the largest producers of fruits and vegetables in the world. — AFP

HANOI: The vulnerability of Vietnamese agricultural exporters is being highlighted following the recent destruction of two shipments of Vietnamese durians and peppers by the Japanese authorities.

This risk is particularly pronounced as importing markets tighten their standards for clean and green practices, necessitating a more proactive and comprehensive approach from the sector to keep its buyers and maintain a competitive edge.

Ta Duc Minh, the Vietnamese Embassy’s trade counselor in Japan, said agricultural export businesses entering the market must fully comply with Japanese standards, emphasising the importance of ensuring product quality and avoiding violations.

The concerns over a fast-and-easy mentality were highlighted by events in October 2023, where two shipments of Vietnamese durians and peppers for Japan were compelled to be destroyed due to excessive chemical residue.

The importing entity, Japan Apple LLC, suffered substantial losses, with the durian shipment alone accounting for a loss of nearly US$10,000. Another incident back in September involved the recall of unripe Vietnamese durians by the company.

In response to the challenges faced by Vietnamese exporters, industry experts and insiders said there is a need for vigilance and adaptation to evolving market dynamics. A report from the Vietnam Sanitary and Phytosanitary Notification Authority said that China and the EU sent 11 notifications related to sanitary and phytosanitary measures between Oct 21 and Nov 21 this year.

The EU, in particular, issued 31 warnings within the first six months of 2023, primarily related to exceeding permitted levels of plant-protection chemicals in agricultural products.

Recognising the pivotal role of leading supply chain entities, Vietnamese authorities warned domestic agricultural-processing companies may lose orders to competitors if they keep failing to implement sustainability commitments diligently. Despite Vietnam being among the world’s largest exporters of fruits and vegetables, the country’s market share in the EU is currently only 0.18%, partly due to non-compliance with the bloc’s standards.

Taking the black pepper industry as an example, experts voiced their concerns over the necessity for attention to global standards. By the end of November 2023, the EU had set regulations on maximum residue limits for 513 active ingredients on black pepper grains, with the United States issuing eight.

As of now, only about 60% of Vietnam’s black pepper producers have managed to meet the residue requirements.

In the pursuit of sustainable development, experts said ongoing projects on pesticide residue should be based on EU and the US standards, along with traceability and initiatives for sources of black pepper.

The target for the Vietnamese black-pepper industry by 2025, is to have 70% of black-pepper exporters meeting the requirements. — Viet Nam News/ANN

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