Vietnam firms aim to boost agricultural exports to China by rail

The shift from road freight is mainly because Vietnam’s railway system has improved with international routes becoming more efficient and consistent. — Vietnam News

HANOI: Businesses are boosting farm exports to China by rail, thanks to it being quick, cheaper and a more reliable form of transport.

The shift from road freight – the traditional route for farm exports into China – is mainly because Vietnam’s railway system has improved with international routes becoming more efficient and consistent.

Among these is an inter-modal train line departing from Cao Xa station in Hai Duong Province’s Cam Giang District into China.

Exporters said they have been pleasantly surprised at the efficiency of shipping goods to China by rail.

Long An Province Dragon Fruit Association chairman Nguyen Quoc Trinh told that its members have been persuading Chinese customers to switch to bringing in things such as dragon fruit by rail due to better costs and logistics.

Because of rail stability, export prices are now more stable, due to quicker customs clearance processing, Trinh said.

He added that the cost of rail transport is 10% to 15% cheaper than road transport.

However, many Chinese partners remain confused as they are not familiar with this mode of transport. Thus, it will take time for local firms to convince them.

Vietnam Fruit and Vegetable Association general secretary Dang Phuc Nguyen said the railway would help diversify means of transport to China and other countries amid congestion at road border gates.

However, there are concerns that goods that have to be loaded, unloaded and transported multiple times could be damaged while the number of refrigerated containers within the railway system remains meager, Nguyen told the online newspaper.

For example, if a truck carrying vegetables and fruit has a problem with the air conditioner on the road, the driver can immediately stop and have the system fixed.

However, trains do not have this luxury of repairs, so the goods could be damaged and spoiled, Nguyen said.

Railway Transport and Trade JSC director Nguyen Duy Toan agreed.

He said farm produce exporters are still hesitant because the transportation process requires refrigerated containers and currently containers of this type are not many.

Forecasting a growing demand for exporting agricultural products and fruits to China by rail, Viettel Post is researching technology for refrigerated containers on trains.

The delivery services firm is also building a warehouse in Nanning City in China to facilitate the import, export and distribution of goods, reported deputy general director Dinh Thanh Son as saying.

Son said his company is also teaming up with Vietnam Railway Corp, which accounts for 75% of the north-south railway capacity, to target between 4,000 and 5,000 containers each month on the Vietnam-China route.

Prime Minister Pham Minh Chinh has already called on government ministries and departments to expand their railway capacity and expedite the construction of specialised railways to boost agricultural exports to China.

On Feb 6, Pham underscored the importance of stronger coordination amongst ministries and departments for a better logistics system for exporting agricultural and other products to neighbouring states.

Under his directive, the ministries of transportation, industry and trade are to work with their Chinese counterparts on ways to cut costs and time for the export of agricultural, forestry and fishery products.

He said international transport routes that connect Vietnam and China should be enhanced through railway systems at the border areas of Lao Cai.

In 2023, Vietnam’s agro-product exports to China reached US$11.5bil, with durian exceeding US$2bil.

In addition, 13 other Vietnamese agricultural products were exported to China, including bird nests, longan, rambutan, jackfruit, watermelon, banana, mangosteens, lychee, passion fruit and grass jelly. — Viet Nam News/ANN

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