Ensuring quality for sustainable growth of durian exports

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Durian products displayed at the Vietnam Outstanding Export Products Fair 2024. Photo: N.H
Durian products displayed at the Vietnam Outstanding Export Products Fair 2024. Photo: N.H

Great growth potential

Mr. Nguyen Quoc Manh, Deputy Director of the Crop Production Department, Ministry of Agriculture and Rural Development, said that the area for durian planting in Vietnam has increased rapidly, from more than 71,000 hectares in 2020 to nearly 151,000 hectares. by the end of 2023. It is estimated that about 50% of the durian area is being harvested with a 2023 output of nearly 1.2 million tons. In the next few years, as the area for harvesting increases, Vietnam’s durian output will likely double.

Mr. Hoang Trung, Deputy Minister of Agriculture and Rural Development, said that ensuring the quality of exported durian is the current top task for Vietnamese durian to stand firm in the world market, especially Chinese market, facing increasingly fierce competitive pressure from Thailand, Malaysia..

According to estimates by the Vietnam Fruit and Vegetable Association, in the first four months of the year, durian exports rose about 30% year-on-year to over US$500 million. Previously, durian exports skyrocketed from US$420 million in 2022 to US$2.24 billion in 2023.

Mr. Nguyen Phuc Nguyen, General Secretary of the Vietnam Fruit and Vegetable Association, said that this year there will be about 20% more durian area for harvest. Besides, last year Vietnam only had more than 400 growing area codes licensed by China, but now this number has increased to 708. In addition, Vietnam is negotiating with China to export frozen durian and negotiating with India to export fresh durian. With these favorable factors, Mr. Nguyen believes that durian exports this year will continue to grow and could reach US$3 billion.

However, Mr. Manh also pointed out challenges for durian trees when the consumer market is narrow, mainly still China. Meanwhile, Vietnamese durian develops later and has to compete directly with Thailand, Malaysia and some other neighboring countries. The ability of Vietnamese durian to meet technical requirements, compliance with plant quarantine requirements and chemical residues is still limited; the organization of the industry chain is still fragmented and unprofessional. Therefore, hot growth in area in a short period of time is posing many risks in quality control and imbalance between supply and demand.

Seriously handling violations without forgiveness

In fact, the Chinese side has issued many warnings about durian shipments that do not comply with the Protocol on plant quarantine requirements for fresh durian exported to China. To ensure durian quality, one of the prerequisites is that durian should be harvested at an optimum stage of maturity and should not be harvested earlier than the optimum stage of maturity.

Ms. Ngo Tuong Vy, Director of Chanh Thu Fruit Import-Export Group JSC, said that Thailand regulated the powder content of exported durian fruit at 32%. As Vietnam boosts durian exports to China, Thailand has raised the powder level regulation to 35% and is aiming for a new regulation of 37%. Accordingly, Ms. Vy proposed that there should be sanctions to ensure that farmers always harvest durian at the appropriate age. Anyone who harvests durian earlier than the appropriate age will be punished. As in Thailand, those who repeatedly violate quality standards can be sentenced to prison.

The Ministry of Agriculture and Rural Development has directed specialized agencies and localities to carry out many technical solutions, especially technical processes related to seed issues, seed structure, and care processes, harvest time as well as apply other scientific and technical advances to prevent pests. In addition, due to the “hot” growth in durian area in recent times, Deputy Minister Hoang Trung said that the Ministry of Agriculture and Rural Development will adjust the planning for main fruits, areas have overheating growth and do not ensure ecological conditions or water source conditions may have to be converted to other crops.

The Ministry of Agriculture and Rural Development also directed localities to maintain effective and substantive supervision to ensure that all growing area codes, packaging facilities and traders meet requirements of the importing market. When a violation occurs as notified by the importing country or discovered by the quarantine agency at the border gate, that batch of goods will immediately not be exported and the growing area code will be suspended, until recovery measures are taken and the inspection and re-evaluation results meet the requirements, the durian export activities do again.

“In the past, there were a forgiveness and those who committed violations one to twice were still forgiven and when they committed the third time violation, they were required traceability and forced export suspension. But now we have to apply strong measures without forgiveness, any violation will be handled immediately” – Deputy Minister of Agriculture and Rural Development Hoang Trung emphasized.

According to Deputy Minister Hoang Trung, in addition to the 708 already granted growing area codes, there are nearly 800 codes about to be issued, estimated to account for about 50% of Vietnam’s durian area. Therefore, if we do not have strict management methods, there might be problems and importing countries will enhance technical measures for Vietnamese durian, leading to increased costs and reduced competitiveness compared to other countries, thereby affecting Vietnam’s durian export turnover.

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