A farmer in Tra Vinh province is harvesting dragon fruits. (Photo: VNA)

Hanoi (VNS/VNA) - Vietnam’s fruit sector should focus on gaining trust from domestic consumers before focusing on exports, said Deputy Director of the Plant Cultivation Department under the Ministry of Agriculture and Rural Development (MARD) Nguyen Nhu Cuong.

He said high quality fruit products that are well consumed domestically will lay a credible foundation for the exports in the future.

The domestic market is the most effective place for the country’s tropical fresh fruit industry to seek consumers. As the country’s economy is developing and people’s incomes increase, domestic consumers are also more conscientious than before, requiring food, including fruit, to meet strict standards of food safety and hygiene.

If the fruit sector wants to conquer domestic customers, it needs to adjust and produce high quality products capable of meeting export standards to serve the domestic market.

Nguyen Dinh Tung, General Director of Vina T&T Import Export Service Trading Co Ltd (Vina T&T Group), said that many foreign customers visited Vietnam but had few chances to enjoy delicious fruits in the domestic market.

“This is a big problem for the entire Vietnamese fruit sector. There is no reason for domestic consumers to have no chance to enjoy the delicious and high quality fruits produced by the country’s farmers,” said Tung.

Tung said his group had planned to set up a system of tropical fruit shops that meet export standards for the domestic consumers. In this way, consumers will be treated more equitably than before.

“Domestic consumers are willing to spend more to have safe products, and want to be treated the same as international customers,” said Tung.

Vietnam now has more than 70 different kinds of fruits consumed in the domestic market such as grapefruit, watermelon, durian, coconut, lime, lychee and plum. More than half of these types are currently exported to fastidious markets such as the US, Australia, Europe, the Republic of Korea and Japan, in addition to the Middle East and India.

As free trade agreements between Vietnam and other countries have come into effect, it’s time for Vietnamese fruits to compete with imported fruits from many countries around the world. According to statistics from the General Department of Vietnam Customs, Vietnamese consumers spend more than 1.2 billion USD consuming imported fruits.

Nguyen Lam Vien, Chairman and General Director of Vinamit Joint Stock Company, said that his company provided the domestic market with processed fruit products that have quality equivalent to exports.

“Our products are processed in accordance with the US Department of Agriculture (USDA) organic standards and European safety standards. All the fruit sources are granted international organic certificates,” said Vien.

“Vinamit does not discriminate between products for the domestic market and exported ones, customers everywhere are equally respected,” he added.

At present, Vinamit has eight processing lines for fruits such as frozen fruit, dried fruit, vacuum dried fruit, chocolate coated fruit, cold dried fruit and fruit candies. These products are mainly Vietnamese fruits such as dragon fruit, banana, jackfruit, durian, watermelon, avocado and strawberry.

Economist Pham Chi Lan said that in a production chain, businesses are not only buying and selling but are also a bridge to develop quality brands in the market.

“High quality products which are strongly consumed in the domestic market will create prestigious momentum when they are exported,” said Lan.

“In order to meet the standards of rigorous markets such as the US, Europe, the Republic of Korea and Japan, the domestic market itself must be a tough market to verify the quality of the products,” she said.

Hoang Trung, Director of the Plant Protection Department of MARD, said that to supply quality products to the domestic market and for export, Vietnam must address problems including quarantine and safety for fruits, and especially needs to eliminate pesticide residue.

Vietnam has currently more than 300,000ha of orchard where VietGap standards are applied to meet the domestic customers’ demands.

Trung said his department had issued nearly 6,000 plantation codes for dragon fruit, mango, longan, rambutan and litchi. It was in coordination with local authorities to issue additional codes for the orchard growing areas for export.

“MARD has been working with enterprises to complete construction on seven agricultural product processing factories, which will be operational this year,” said Trung.

The most important way to maintain the domestic market is ensuring that fruit growers and fruit processing enterprises make high quality products, building up confidence and enticing domestic consumers to choose Vietnamese fruits over many kinds of imported ones.-VNS/VNA