Tightening control on imported products
A representative of the Ministry of Industry and Trade said that the Chinese government had just issued Decree No.248 on regulations on registration and administration of overseas manufacturers of imported food and Decree No.249 on administrative measures on import and export food safety, effective from January 1, 2022. Accordingly, with Decree 248, all foreign enterprises producing food for export to China must register with the General Administration of Customs of China (GACC). In which, Group 1 includes 18 groups of products that must be registered through State management agencies, and Group 2 contains foodstuffs (besides 18 products in Group 1) that must be registered directly with the GACC.
Decree No.249 will focus on tightening the control of product quality and packaging. In particular, it emphasizes that food manufacturers must be responsible for food safety with their products. In addition, with this decree, it is also the first time that China has officially accepted the online assessment option.
Mr. Nong Duc Lai, Commercial Counselor of the Vietnamese Embassy in China, assessed that with changes in import and export regulations, Vietnamese businesses would encounter five difficulties when exporting goods to the Chinese market.
Specifically, China has not opened the market for many kinds of agricultural, aquatic, and seafood products. It promulgates tighter and stricter regulations and standards on quality, traceability, and packaging. The market is highly competitive, and due to the impact of the Covid-19 pandemic, China has strengthened measures to inspect and control goods under customs clearance.
There are currently 128 aquatic and seafood products and nine types of Vietnamese fruits licensed to be exported to this market by China, much lower than other countries in the region, such as Thailand, Indonesia, Malaysia, and India. Particularly, some products are the mainstays of Vietnamese agriculture, namely edible bird's nest, and durian, but have not yet been opened the market by China.
Moreover, Vietnam's exports to the Chinese market are under extremely high competitive pressure because China is expanding its domestic farming area, and at the same time, opening the door for products of the same types as exported goods of Vietnam from other countries in the region.
Raising the standard of Vietnamese products to expand the market
According to Mr. Nong Duc Lai, in the 2016-2020 period, 13,591 imported goods from 122 countries and territories violated China's regulations, and the top violators were Taiwan, Japan, Korea, Italy, Australia, France, Germany, and Vietnam, with regular products including beverages and dried foods. In which, the percentage of Vietnamese goods accounts for more than 4 percent. In the first nine months of this year, 138 violations of Vietnamese products and goods exported to China were uncovered, accounting for 7.3 percent. The common violations were product quality, food safety, and improper import process mainly happened in commodity groups of dried fruit, sugar, rice, aquatic products, beverages, and hard-shell seeds.
Therefore, to be able to export safely to the Chinese market, Vietnamese products must strengthen the production models under VietGAP and GlobalGAP standards. Aquaculture areas, processing, and packaging establishments must ensure production conditions and safety standards to meet the requirements of quality, as well as food safety. Especially, attention must be paid to packaging, which not only meets the requirements and regulations of China but also has to improve the product value. Finally, it is essential to strengthen the inspection and supervision of the production of agricultural and food products.
Mr. Vo Trung Hieu, Vinamilk's International Business Director, shared that to export to the Chinese market, the company's dairy products not only have met European organic standards but also completed and supplemented organic certification to meet the requirements of the Chinese market. Besides, Vinamilk also invests in packaging and product design elements to meet individual tastes but still ensures product quality during transportation and distribution. On each box of milk, besides the organic symbol, there is a serial number for traceability and quality management following the two organic standards that the company owns. Thus, consumers can feel assured of the origin and quality of each milk carton.
From another angle, many enterprises said that with the two new decrees, businesses can only export goods when the Chinese government opens the market for that product. So, with 18 items of Group 1 that must be opened the market by the Chinese government, including meat and meat products, seafood, dairy products, edible bird's nests, products from edible bird's nests, animal intestines, bee products, eggs, egg products, cooking oils and raw materials, cakes with assorted fillings, and cereals used as food, there are still many products that the Chinese government has not opened the market to Vietnam. It means that domestic enterprises cannot export the above products to this market. Therefore, besides the fact that businesses must actively improve production capacity, authorities need to speed up negotiations to convince China to open the market for Vietnamese exported products, creating a foundation for enterprises to maintain market share and expand exports in this potential market.