A rambutan orchard in Ben Tre. The province is seeking to boost export of its fruits, especially to China (Photo: VNA)

Ben Tre (VNA) - China has high demand for fruits but new measures are needed to encourage Vietnamese exporters to ship their fruits officially to China rather than through border trade, a recent seminar heard in Ben Tre province.

According to the provincial Department of Agricultural and Rural Development, the province has more than 28,000ha under fruits and grows over 300,000 tonnes of various fruits annually.

They not only meet domestic demand but are also exported to many countries, with some fruits like rambutan and xiem coconut even sold to demanding markets like the US, Australia, Canada and Europe.

But Nguyen Van Buoi, the department’s deputy director, said China remains the main market and exports are mainly through border trade.

China has officially opened its market to eight fruits from Vietnam - mango, longan, banana, litchi, watermelon, rambutan, jackfruit and dragon fruit - while others are still exported through border trade, he said.

Vo Van Nam, head of the provincial Sub-Department of Crop Production and Plant Protection, said exports through border gates are highly disadvantageous to both businesses and farmers because usually prices are low, transportation costs are high and there are risks related to payment.

The province has more than 20 enterprises involved in processing and exporting agricultural products, mainly coconut and coconut-based products, green skin pomelo, rambutan and longan.

But they face a number of challenges like technical barriers in export markets and fierce competition from similar Thai products, he said.

Producers have not developed brand names for their products while their trade promotion is not very efficient, he added.

Ngo Tuong Vy, deputy director of Chanh Thu Fruit Import and Export Company based in Ben Tre, said boosting official exports to China requires coordinated efforts by ministries, agencies and localities.

China is no longer an "easy" market and has stricter requirements for farm produce imports, she said.

Her company is preparing actively to ensure its durian could compete with Thai products and be exported to China, she added.

Buoi from the Department of Agricultural and Rural Development said the province’s agricultural sector has developed specific plans to boost official exports to China.

Initially it would co-ordinate with localities to support co-operatives and co-operative groups to improve their efficiency and encourage and instruct farmers in growing fruits to VietGAP standards, he said.

It would then invite experts to apprise businesses and farmers about plant quarantine and food safety regulations in importing countries, he said.

The province has urged the Ministry of Agriculture and Rural Development to speed up negotiations with China to enable more Vietnamese fruits to enter the market officially.-VNA