Farm produce exporters still see narrow door to U.S. market


Minister of Agriculture and Rural Development Cao Duc Phat pointed out obstacles for exporters of Vietnamese farm products in the U.S. market at a meeting with U.S. Secretary of Agriculture Thomas J.Vilsack at a meeting in Hanoi on Monday.

The ministry said the licensing process for Vietnamese fruit shipments to the U.S. is costly and time-consuming. Only thanh long (dragon fruit), rambutan, longan, and litchi have been allowed for export stateside, but their revenue is low as exporters pay high cost for meeting U.S. requirements.For example, the cost for checks by U.S. experts in Vietnam and fruit irradiation is estimated at US$500,000 per year.According to the ministry, for fruit exported to the U.S., Vietnam has cooperated with the U.S. to monitor the irradiation and testing processes since 2008. Therefore, Minister Phat proposed the U.S. recognize irradiation by local plant quarantine agencies.The ministry also proposed the U.S. approve mango and star apple imports from Vietnam because all required procedures have been conducted for these fruits.Vietnamese exporters are required to meet strict regulations on chemical residues. Besides, shrimp and tra fish (pangasius) exports to the U.S. in the past years have not been treated fairly.For tra and basa fish exports, meeting the provisions under the 2014 Farm Bill with an 18-month transition period is a challenge for Vietnam. Therefore, Vietnam suggested lengthening the transition period due to differences in production conditions and development levels between the two countries.However, Vilsack told reporters in HCMC on April 26 after visiting a Co.op Xtra hypermarket in HCMC’s District 7 that the U.S. will retain quality requirements to protect American consumers.Vilsack said the requirements are not barriers but assurances for quality. As a partner of Vietnam, the U.S. will help Vietnam meet the requirements and provide the Southeast Asian country a technical assistance package after it has identified barriers and ways it wants to receive support from the U.S.He noted that Vietnamese firms have opportunities to exports farm produce stateside as demand is high. Vietnamese products will have an competitive edge in the U.S. after the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) trade pact takes effect as import tariffs will go down.

Currently, an import tariff of 5% is imposed on Vietnam’s agricultural products sold to the U.S. while a much higher rate of 16% applies to American farm products shipped to Vietnam. Vilsack said it takes time for the duties to be removed.      He said with the TPP, more than 90% of tariff lines on Vietnamese products shipped to the U.S. market will be lifted. The trade agreement will allow more U.S. products to enter Vietnam.According to the Ministry of Agriculture and Rural Development, Vietnam shipped agricultural products worth US$5.69 billion to the U.S. and spent US$1.4 billion on imports of U.S. farm produce.Vietnam’s agro-aqua-forestry exports to the U.S. in the past three years have grown by around 20%, with wooden products and seafood being major export earners.Vietnam imports fruits, foodstuffs and raw materials for feed and food processing including potatoes, soybeans, corn and wheat from the U.S. Imports have picked up over the past three years with average growth of 10% per year.