Canning investment needed by Vietnam’s fruit and vegetable sector

Picture courtesy of Ancelin Bonnet from Pixabay

Vietnam’s fruit and vegetable sector is in desperate need of investment in canning plants to improve the quality of food and boost exports to Africa, Thailand, the US and Europe.

Đặng Phúc Nguyên, general secretary of the Vietnam Association of Vegetables (VAV), says the country needs more modern equipment for packaging and post-processing of produce, so that its shelf life is improved.

Currently, fruit and vegetable production in Vietnam is mainly small scale and carried out by rural households using manual methods with limited mechanisation and processing. As a result, most of the fruit and vegetables exported are unprocessed, resulting in poor returns, Nguyên told the English language daily Việt Nam News.

Potentially, it could provide an ideal outlet for a mobile canning system developed by Tata Steel, which is expected to help farmers process and preserve food on site and cut food losses.

Statistics from Vietnam’s Ministry of Agriculture and Rural Development showed that the value of fruit and vegetables exported in the first two months of this year was US$513 million, down 11.9 per cent year-on-year. In February, domestic market prices fell for a range of vegetables, especially those from Đà Lạt, which is the country’s vegetable hub, in the southern province of Lâm Đồng.

“Vietnam’s products have been held up since China, which is one of the large importers of Vietnamese products, stopped buying,” Nguyên said.

There has also been a decline in price for these products, which has been attributed to overproduction at farm level in other parts of the country and the impact of the Covid-19 pandemic, which has hit exports of vegetables to important markets in China and Cambodia.

For products such as dragon fruit – also known as pitahaya or strawberry pear – jackfruit and durian, prices plummeted by five-six times early last month due to customs clearance difficulties at the China border. However, prices have started to recover, thanks to a partial re-opening of the border and support from businesses to boost domestic consumption.

Exports of fruit and vegetables to the US, Thailand and Africa had shown positive signs in 2019, according to VAV. In the US, for example, mangoes from Vietnam for the first time met the standards required for import.

The European Parliament agreed to ratify a free trade agreement and an investment protection agreement between the bloc and Vietnam on 12 February 2020, Nguyên reported. “This is an opportunity for businesses to expand their export markets for fruit and vegetables because they will no longer face import tax after the agreement takes effect,” he said.