Rambutan is the third Vietnamese fruit after mango and dragon fruit to be exported to New Zealand. Việt Nam is also the first country to be licensed to export fresh rambutan to New Zealand. Entry to a demanding market such as New Zealand will provide Việt Nam the opportunity to tap other strict markets in the world. Hoàng Trung, Director of the Ministry of Agriculture and Rural Development’s Plant Protection Department (PPD), talks to Việt Nam News reporter Tố Như about the challenges in receiving the “green light” from New Zealand and the advantages the opportunity presents to the country.
Việt Nam has been officially allowed to export rambutan to New Zealand after seven years of negotiations. Why did it take so long?
First of all, I want to emphasize that New Zealand not only has a highly developed system of agriculture but is also an island nation with a unique ecosystem. Therefore, the country has strict regulations on plant quarantine to protect domestic agriculture from the risk of external pest infestation, especially through the exchange of goods in international trade.
Meanwhile, Việt Nam is a tropical country, and its flora and fauna are completely different from those in New Zealand. So, we have the advantage of exporting tropical agricultural products to this market. However, there is still a risk that the products we export to New Zealand may carry pests. Therefore, before getting the export license for agricultural products, we needed to ensure that we met all import requirements of New Zealand.
In the process, we had to spend time and effort to survey and collect data on pests and diseases as well as reorganizing the industry, from production and processing to packaging and carrying out research on management of fruits for exports. Based on that, we had to set up pest-control measures, which were shared with New Zealand for approval. All these steps took a long time to introduce a fruit of tropical origin to a strict market as New Zealand.
Over the past seven years, Việt Nam’s PPD has actively coordinated with New Zealand’s Ministry of Primary Industries to address technical issues related to Việt Nam’s export of fresh fruits to New Zealand. So far, the necessary procedures have been completed, and New Zealand has officially recognized rambutan as an export fruit.
What obstacles and barriers have Vietnamese enterprises overcome to meet New Zealand’s stringent standards?
To open the export market for rambutan to New Zealand, businesses and producers needed to meet the stringent quarantine requirements of New Zealand. They had to reorganize their production process to suit New Zealand’s demand.
It is easy for us to just plant, harvest and sell the product in the domestic market, but in exporting the product to such a fastidious market, the importing country always requires an orchard garden of the product, along with a code, to ensure traceability as well as to facilitate the application of pest-control measures.
In addition to these steps, there should also be supporting facilities, such as pre-processing, packaging, research on treatment measures and implementation of annual survey programmes for pests and diseases that New Zealand is interested in—these are concepts that Vietnamese businesses were not familiar with earlier.
In terms of packaging and labeling, packaging units have to register and are designated by the PPD, meeting New Zealand’s requirements for packaging and labeling.
As for irradiation facilities, these must be granted plant protection certificates by the PPD ensuring traceability.
What is the export turnover Việt Nam expects to reach from vegetables and fruits in 2018?
According to the target set for 2018, MARD will endeavor to bring the export turnover of agricultural products to US$40 billion, of which the fruit and vegetable sector is estimated at nearly $4 billion. With exports showing a positive trend in the first months of this year, as well as close co-operation between relevant authorities and enterprises, we will strive to achieve the set goals.
Is this feasible when import markets tend to increase protection for production and business in this area?
Yes, of course. In the current context, when countries tend to use technical barriers to replace the former tariff barriers, there will be many difficulties for exports and the opening of new markets. Therefore, it is important to maintain production conditions, product quality and enhance credibility in opened markets, thereby creating incentives for producers to move towards added value for agricultural products from Việt Nam.
As a unit in charge of removing technical barriers in the opening of markets, PPD will prioritize negotiations to open potential markets with large consumption near Việt Nam, where Vietnamese fruit products are highly competitive. Besides China which is a large market, in order to maintain and promote the exported products, Vietnamese agencies will strengthen the dissemination of plant health and food safety regulations by importing countries to businesses and farmers, thereby changing their perception of production to form sustainable production areas and better exploit opened markets.
Over the past years, fruit exports have flourished thanks to the good association between enterprises and farmers and cooperatives, from the planting area and management of production to processing before export. This is also the direction to accelerate in 2018 and the in the future.