Responding to China s increasingly stringent import controls

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Responding to China's increasingly stringent import controls
China also requires negotiations to open up for each type of product and re-sign the Export Protocol for traditional fruits, the same management form as for mangosteen and durian. Photo: TL

Tighter control

In 2022, the Ministry of Agriculture and Rural Development of Vietnam and the General department of China Customs signed 5 Protocols requiring phytosanitary checks for agricultural products including durian, banana, passion fruit, sweet potato, and swallow’s nest. This opens up great opportunities for Vietnamese agricultural products to be exported to the world’s most populous market. However, opportunities also come with challenges when the Chinese market is increasingly tight on food quality and safety.

Previously, in April 2021, the General Department of China Customs issued Order 248 on “Regulations on registration management of foreign imported-food manufacturers” and Order 249 on “Measures to manage food safety for export and import”. Accordingly, foreign enterprises, including from Vietnam, who want to export to the Chinese market must comply with these new regulations. These two orders take effect from January 1, 2022.

Mr. Le Thanh Hoa, Deputy Director of Agricultural Product Processing and Market Development Department, Director of SPS Vietnam Office:

In the near future, the China will strictly inspect the level of microbiological contamination and chemical contamination in food products exported to China.

Therefore, enterprises and units that have been provided planting area codes and packing facility codes must actively update, research and adjust in time to ensure compliance with Chinese requirements.

In particular, from now until June 30, 2023, if any enterprise is allowed to register directly, it must actively update its documents, in case it is not capable, it can do it through competent authorities that support the registration; the documents should be translated into Chinese, which will be very convenient for the Chinese Customs to consider later.

Mr. Le Thanh Hoa, Deputy Director of the Department of Agricultural Product Processing and Market Development, Director of SPS Vietnam Office, said the implementation of the two Orders 248 and 249 in the past year has basically satisfied requests from China.

The difficulties and obstacles were quickly connected by the SPS Office with the Chinese Customs to solve.

According to Mr. Hoa, Order 248 does not regulate the registration of planting area codes and packing facilities. China does not require all exporters of fresh fruit and tropical fruit products from Vietnam and China to register and have a new license code, but only requires Chinese importers, when carrying out the phytosanitary checks on the Chinese side, the goods must be clearly labeled on the packaging, with the packing establishment code and the growing area code.

According to data from SPS Vietnam Office, by December 5, 2022, there were 2,426 product codes licensed to be imported into China. In which, there are 1,236 product codes in the group of 18 items registered through the competent authority (accounting for 50.9%) and the other 1,190 product codes are not on the list that must be registered through the competent authority. Among these two groups, seafood products are approved by China Customs the most, followed by nut products (cashew nuts, coffee, etc) and vegetable oil products, flour cakes, etc.

Dr. Phan Thi Thu Hien, representative of the Plant Protection Department, said that Vietnam currently has 7 types of traditional fruits exported to China including mango, dragon fruit, longan, litchi, watermelon, rambutan, jackfruit, and 5 export types under the form of signing the Protocol are mangosteen, black jelly, durian, banana, and sweet potato. In addition, Vietnam is temporarily exporting passion fruit and fresh chili peppers. The items that are continuing to negotiate to open the market are grapefruits, custard apple, coconut, rose apple, lemon, etc.

However, the Chinese market is undergoing drastic changes with regulations constantly being renewed. Specifically, China requires strict control of goods crossing the border, especially in the form of border trade and small quotas. At the same time, China also requires negotiations to open the door for each type of product and re-sign the Export Protocol for traditional fruits, the similar management form as for mangosteen and durian, simultaneously requiring the declaration of growing area code and packing facility.

Strictly managing the planting area code

Although many results have been achieved, as noted at the Forum on establishment of facilities, planting area codes, origin traceability of agricultural products and foods to promote exports, organized by the Ministry of Agriculture and Rural Development recently, there are still many outstanding problems that need to be resolved soon, especially the issue related to planting area codes.

Mr. Nguyen Tan Nhon, Deputy Director of the Department of Agriculture and Rural Development of Can Tho City, said that currently, the implementation of code providing is facing difficulties due to small growing areas, the issuance of codes is difficult, lack of resources to locate and identify planting areas, which leads to difficulties in managing planting areas.

Meanwhile, Mr. Hoang Khanh Duy, Deputy Head of the Management Board of Dong Dang – Lang Son Border Gate Economic Zone, said that currently many businesses have not carefully studied Orders 248 and 249, so there is still confusion, leading to slow customs clearance. Agricultural products for export are still mainly raw products, which have not yet met the requirements of the export market. In particular, the Management Board of Dong Dang – Lang Son Border Gate Economic Zone has received a report that some individuals who received authorization to carry out procedures to export durian to China showed signs of cheating on planting area codes, packing facility codes. The People’s Committee of Lang Son province has received the information and is directing the authorities to investigate the case.

On the side of enterprises, a representative of Nafoods Company also said that, due to the sensitive characteristics of diseases, the scale of passion fruit cultivation only fluctuates from 3 to 7 hectares/farm, but there is no large concentration area like durian, dragon fruit. Therefore, the management and providing planting area codes face many difficulties. Accordingly, the representative of Nafoods proposed that it is necessary to re-plan the area for specialized production of passion fruit, with a roadmap for planning and developing the raw material area for passion fruit. In addition, it is necessary to update detailed documentation to answer questions from farmers in the process of passion fruit production and have solutions to support farmers to maintain the planting area code, and avoid relying heavily on enterprises.

Mr. Nguyen Tan Nhon also suggested that localities and the Ministry of Agriculture and Rural Development should strengthen inspection and supervision, create transparency in production supply and prevent fraud in the use of area codes. Additionally, businesses also need to work together to create production and supply chains that ensure quality and output when supplying to Chinese partners.

Also related to this issue, Mr. Le Thanh Hoa noted that enterprises when carrying out export procedures must be public, transparent, not declare fraudulently, borrow planting area codes for export, etc. Once detected, they need to suffer serious consequences, even having their export capacity cancelled.

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