Vietnam imports cost local farmers dearly

Overstocked: Workers sorting out limau nipis at a farm in Kulai, Johor. — THOMAS YONG/The Star

KULAI: Local fruit farmers are incurring huge losses as the prices of some fruits and vegetables have plunged due to a glut following imports of such produce from Vietnam in recent weeks.

Some of the fruit prices have dropped by about 50%, affecting local farmers who are already grappling with issues such as labour shortages and hikes in operational costs in terms of prices of pesticides and fertilisers.

Malaysian Fruit Farmers’ Association vice-president Francis Hong said that among the affected fruits and vegetables are ciku, dragon fruit, limau nipis, limau kasturi and chillies.

He stressed that the prices of ciku were down to RM8 from RM12, dragon fruit to RM3 from RM6, limau nipis RM3 per kg from RM6, limau kasturi RM4 from RM8, and chillies RM5 from RM10.

“This is hurting many small-time farmers nationwide,” he said, adding that the problems started after Chinese New Year when the government allowed the import of fruits and vegetables from Vietnam.

Hong, who is also the Johor Fruit Farmers Association deputy president, said that local farmers were already facing all sorts of problems, including labour shortages and 200% hikes in the prices of fertilisers and pesticides.

“In fact, after the Covid-19 pandemic, many farmers stopped growing fruits and vegetables and have gone to other crops such as oil palm. This is bad for us, especially in terms of food security for the country,” he said.

Hong added that the government allows imports during festival periods due to high demand, but this time, prices have dropped the most.

He stressed that while it was good for local consumers, imported fruits and vegetables did not have to undergo stringent checks like those grown locally.

“Local farmers need certification such as the Malaysian Good Agricultural Practices (myGAP) certification on the level of fertilisers and pesticides used.

“Imported items do not need all this. Also in countries like Vietnam, their farmers are given incentives by the government to export their produce,” he said, adding that the government should look into the plight of local farmers and help with more subsidies.

Hong, who has been a farmer for 20 years, said that they were not against the importation of fruits and vegetables but that there should be some “barriers” put up to protect local farmers.

“In Indonesia, those who want to export their produce need to go via Jakarta, even if it is only to Batam, which is near Johor. As for Thailand, it is very easy for them to export their produce to Malaysia via land, but it is very difficult to export our agricultural products into their country,” he said.

Hong hoped that the government would tighten the requirements for fruits and vegetables being imported into the country, including the need to have proper certification.

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