Vietnamese agricultural, aquatic products look for consumption market

The exporting of several agricultural, and aquatic products to China has had to temporarily halt as the border gates are temporarily closed due to the outbreak of the novel coronavirus, urging farmers and export enterprises to look for consumption markets amid the impacts of the disease.
Dragon fruits are unable to export to China due to the outbreak of the novel coronavirus. (Photo: SGGP)
Dragon fruits are unable to export to China due to the outbreak of the novel coronavirus. (Photo: SGGP)

Concerns have been covering dragon fruit fields in Binh Thuan, Long An, and Tien Giang provinces. More than 1 hectare of dragon fruits of Mr. Nguyen Duy Khang, as well as other orchards in Ham Thuan Nam District in Binh Thuan Province, has been ready for harvest but up to now, there is no sign of traders coming here to buy dragon fruits. Last week, dragon fruits fetched more than VND20,000 per kilogram but now the price has dropped to VND5,000-VND6,000 per kilogram. The price of first-grade dragon fruits for export is only VND10,000 per kilogram but traders neglect to buy.

Not only farmers but fruit exporters are also hovering between life and death with first export orders in the new year. Many enterprises bought dragon fruits at nearly VND30,000 per kilogram on January 27 to export their first order of the year the next day. However, after waiting for two days at the border gates, enterprises were informed that their partners temporarily halted the importing of dragon fruits due to the novel coronavirus outbreak.                                                            

It costs nearly VND100 million if enterprises transport dragon fruits back. But they also do not know when China will resume buying again, not to mention that they have to spend money on oil for running cold storage to preserve dragon fruits.

Eventually, they had to transport dragon fruits to sell at wholesale markets in Northern provinces to recoup losses. Not only dragon fruits but the nine other kinds of fruits that are allowed to export to China also encounter the same difficulty.

The Department of Agriculture and Rural Development of Binh Thuan Province on February 3 said that the province currently has around 100,000 tons of dragon fruits that are unable to export.

Similarly, several farmers raising aquatic products in floating farms to export to China are also affected by the novel coronavirus epidemic. Lobster farmers have tried to call traders to buy lobsters as they are ready for harvest but traders refused to buy as lobsters cannot be exported to China.

Currently, the price of green lobsters at provinces in the South Central Coast of Vietnam fluctuates at VND600,000 per kilogram, around 10 percent compared to the same period last year. The price of tropical rock lobsters was from VND1.7 million to VND1.8 million per kilogram before the lunar New Year but now they are unsalable.

Mr. Lam Anh Tuan, Chairman of the Association of Farmers of Cam Binh Commune in Cam Ranh City, confirmed that recently, traders have stopped buying lobsters. The owner of a lobster export company in Nha Trang City said that although the Chinese market is longing for fresh lobsters, from January 23, border gates have been temporarily closed for the prevention of the spread of novel coronavirus so enterprises cannot export their goods.

Amid the situation, the Department of Industry and Trade of Binh Thuan Province has put forward five solutions to ‘rescue’ dragon fruits, including increasing domestic consumption, cold preservation, and processing, looking for other markets, and proposing support from the State in buying and stockpiling dragon fruits. The Department of Agriculture and Rural Development of Binh Thuan Province recommended that farmers should limit artificial lighting to extend harvest time while waiting for the Chinese market to open again.

Meanwhile, the Department of Agriculture and Rural Development of Long An Province proposed the provincial People’s Committee to ask banks to give loans to enterprises that have cold storage warehouses to buy dragon fruits for temporary stockpiling during this time.

Mr. Nguyen Lam Vien, Chairman of Vinamit, said that even enterprises with post-harvest preservation and processing technology are unable to rescue the extremely huge amount of agricultural products waiting to be exported to China. Although his company produces dried fruits, it can only increase buying jackfruit with a small quantity as this product has been known by many people. As for other products, it can buy them to a certain extent, instead of buying all because dried fruits and fruit juices, though they might last longer, they also have expiry dates.  

Mr. Nguyen Dinh Tung, CEO of Vina T&T Group, said that his company has increased purchasing more fruits but it only prioritizes farmers whose mangoes and dragon fruits meet export standards. Cold preservation extends the time for only 30 days, so if China does not buy goods then enterprises might face the risk of bankruptcy.

Currently, Vietnam officially exports to China nine kinds of fruits, comprising of dragon fruit, watermelon, lychee, longan, banana, mango, jackfruit, rambutan, and mangosteen. Of which, dragon fruits and watermelons account for extremely huge production.

Mr. Dang Phuc Nguyen, General Secretary of the Vietnam Fruits and Vegetables Association, said that currently, provinces in China have been locked down. If Chinese enterprises in the border regions are able to buy goods, the quantity will be small as they will sell in that province only. In addition, enterprises also need solutions to deal with the possibility that the 2019-nCoV outbreak will happen complicatedly and spread widely and enterprises will not be able to export for a long time.

Noticeably, agricultural products for export to China cannot be exported to other markets because of various reasons, including different standards. Moreover, agricultural products of other countries are also temporarily halted importing like Vietnam so they also rush to find other markets.

Therefore, fresh fruits can only rely on the domestic market. Farmers and export enterprises are in dire need of consumption market right in this crop.