China is the most important export market for Vietnamese fresh fruits and accounts for 65-70% of the country’s total export volume. However, in the last two years, Vietnam has received notices from the China Customs offices about a number of fresh fruit batches exported to China, which did not meet the requirements. This was due to different reasons like the detection of harmful organisms, chemical residue exceeding the permissible limits, unsuitable labeling, invalid goods certificates or counterfeit certificates of origin. The consequences of not dealing with these notifications can be the loss of trust of the quality of Vietnamese exports. That could negatively impact Vietnam’s market share in China’s fresh fruit market.
As a consequence of the notifications the topics of sanitary and phytosanitary (plant health) requirements and the application of traceability for exported fruits from Vietnam have become important issues and are closely monitored by the Vietnamese authorities. Additionally, in order to meet the changing requirements and demands of the Chinese market, fruit producers from Vietnam need to apply technical practices and sustainable solutions in the production and post-harvest/packing stages to control food loss, and ensure the quality and food safety of their products.
The SPS Vietnam Office serves as the national focal point for transparency in the application of Sanitary and Phytosanitary measures (SPS) in Vietnam. One of its key tasks is to strengthen the technical capacity for the public and private sector in the field of SPS. In its effort to do so, the cooperation with GIZ/SRECA and AgriTrade projects on the two two-days training events was born. The two trainings titled “Food Safety, Sanitary and Phytosanitary Regulations and technical Solutions to promote sustainable agricultural trade into the Chinese market” were held in Dong Thap and in Gia Lai province. The aim was to build capacity for SMEs as well as for organizations which provide technical service in this field from both the public and private sector.
The Trainers were senior experts and senior officers from the Sanitary and Phytosanitary (SPS) office of the Ministry of Agriculture and Rural Development (MARD), the National Bar Code Center (NBC), the Southern Horticultural Research Institute (SOFRI) and consultants from the SRECA and AgriTrade projects. They shared their insight with the audience and supported the discussion and exchange at the gathering.
At the event, participants received current information on the Chinese market situation of import and export of agricultural products, SPS and maximum residue level (MRL) requirements, traceability requirements and their application for Vietnamese fruits export to China. They were also trained in technical practices (Integrated Pest Management VietGAP) and solutions applied in fruit production and post-harvest stages to address the requirement on food safety and quality control. Special focus was put on testing and certificate requirements for fruit export to China.
Practical cases were used as examples for participants to grasp the current situation in the Vietnam – China trade. An outlook on expected Chinese requirements, likely to be instituted in the near future, was given and strategies on how to best prepare compliance with them was discussed. To stimulate discussion amongst the participants and give them a chance for more in-depth exchange with the experts present, group discussion sessions were formed after each training topic providing opportunities for participants to raise their questions and concerns and get immediate feedback and clarification from the experts.
A total number of 152 participants from ten provinces in the Southwestern and central highland regions of Vietnam, which have large fruit production areas (including Ben Tre, Vinh Long, Can Tho, Tien Giang, Dong Thap, Dak Lak, Gia Lai, Lam Dong, Kon Tum, Ho Chi Minh) attended the trainings. Leadership from the provincial Department of Trade and Industry (DoIT), the provincial Department of Agricultural and Rural Development (DARD) and the provincial Department of Health Service from Gia Lai, Lam Dong, Dak Lak, Kon tum, Ben Tre, Dong Thap as well as the Vietnam Fruit and Vegetable Association participated in the training events, demonstrating the importance of the topics across the institutional spectrum of agencies concerned with fruit exports.
The training event provided a great opportunity for participants to establish networks and linkages among actors and with supporting agencies from both the private and public sector.