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Export market diversification for produce needed following coronavirus outbreak
The Saigon Times Daily
Tuesday,  Feb 4, 2020,15:11 (GMT+7)

Export market diversification for produce needed following coronavirus outbreak

The Saigon Times Daily

Trucks are parked at Kim Thanh International Border Gate No. 2 in the northern mountainous province of Lao Cai. Import and export activities through the gate are subdued during the early days of the Lunar New Year – PHOTO: VNA

HCMC – The country’s agriculture regulator has asked the relevant agencies to diversify export markets for farm produce since the deadly coronavirus outbreak that originated in the central Chinese city of Wuhan has disrupted produce shipments, especially those of dragon fruit, to China.

The Ministry of Agriculture and Rural Development held a conference in Hanoi on Monday to seek measures to promote the trade of farm produce, given the development of the acute respiratory disease, reported the Vietnam News Agency.

The viral epidemic is having adverse effects on all economic sectors, but agriculture is expected to suffer the heaviest toll since China is a major market for Vietnamese farm produce, accounting for 22%-24% of the sector’s total export turnover, according to Minister Nguyen Xuan Cuong.

Cuong called on the relevant agencies and local governments to devise scenarios with specific groups of measures to handle the outbreak over the next one or two months or even one or two quarters.

His deputy, Tran Thanh Nam, said the outbreak is negatively affecting the trade of agricultural, aquatic and fisheries products between Vietnam and China.

Nam explained that the limited transport, especially the suspension of flights to and from mainland China, is hindering exchanges and transactions between the two sides’ businesses and management agencies.

Government data revealed that as of Sunday night, at least 175 trucks, each carrying some 20 tons of dragon fruit, were stuck at border gates in the far northern province of Lang Son, bordering Guangxi province in China.

Farmers in Long An Province, southeast of HCMC, are harvesting an estimated 75,600 tons of dragon fruit until the end of this month. Meanwhile, those in the Mekong Delta province of Tien Giang and the southeast coastal province of Binh Thuan will gather some 10,000 tons and 100,000 tons of the fruit, respectively.

The news website VnExpress reported last week that many farmers in the provinces of Long An and Binh Thuan could not export their dragon fruit to the northern neighbor. Their prices were seeing a steep decline to VND4,000 from VND37,000-47,000 per kilogram, recorded one month earlier.

A facility specializes in the purchase of dragon fruit in the southern province of Long An – PHOTO: VNA

As an interim measure, the ministry told the Plant Protection Department and the Department of Animal Health to team up with the relevant forces in border areas to intensify the quarantine of animals and plants, ban the import of wild animals into Vietnam and prevent an H5N1 bird flu outbreak.

China’s Ministry of Agriculture and Rural Affairs announced Saturday an outbreak of a highly pathogenic strain of H5N1 bird flu at a farm in the southern province of Hunan. The virus was discovered on a farm with nearly 8,000 chickens, more than half of which have already died because of the outbreak.

The Vietnamese Department of Farm Produce Processing and Market Development was required to work with the trade agencies of Vietnamese embassies overseas to diversify markets for agricultural products.

In particular, the ministry will lead a business delegation to visit Dubai in the United Arab Emirates on February 15 to expand its Middle Eastern market.

They will later visit the United States on February 22 and Brazil in March, while expanding the market in Japan in March, Russia in June, Australia and New Zealand in July, South Korea in August, Europe in the second quarter of this year and Indonesia and Myanmar in the third quarter.

If the deadly virus outbreak lasts for months, the ministry will coordinate with businesses, associations and local governments to promote the sales of farm produce at major domestic supermarkets.

Exports of milk and seafood have also faced trouble as Chinese importers have postponed taking deliveries, according to the Government.

Vietnam has confirmed an additional case of the respiratory disease, the Ministry of Health said on Tuesday, bringing the country’s total to ten cases.

According to the Reuters news agency, Hong Kong reported its first death from the newly identified coronavirus on Tuesday, the second fatality outside mainland China from an outbreak that has already killed over 420 people, spread around the world and raised fears for global economic growth.

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