Ministry urges inspection of fruit exported to Europe
By Thuy Dung - The Saigon Times Daily
HANOI – The Ministry of Agriculture has asked the Plant Protection Department to step up inspections of fruit and vegetables bound for Europe following complaints from buyers that many batches shipped there are not safe for consumers.
The Executive Agency for Health and Consumers of the European Commission recently announced that the EU would issue a ban on imports of fruit and vegetables from Vietnam if five more cases violating regulations on food safety and plant quarantine were detected.
A lot of fruit and vegetables exported to the EU have been detected to violate regulations on food safety and plant quarantine due to being infected with microorganism and pest, the ministry said.
“If this situation happens, not only fruit and vegetables of Vietnam will be banned in the EU but also the prestige of Vietnam’s agro-products on the international market will be severely damaged,” said the ministry.
Meanwhile, the Plant Protection Department said it would promote the inspection of fresh fruit and vegetables exported to the EU and issue guidelines to localities and exporters to ensure their products are qualified for export to Europe.
The Plant Protection Department is also required to only allow export of qualified shipments in accordance with the above regulations.
The agriculture ministry has instructed customs agencies to make clearance for only those consignments having the Phytosanitary Certificate granted by plant quarantine agencies.
“The EU’s demand for stopping imports of fruit and vegetables from Vietnam if there are five more violating cases is very difficult to meet,” said Nguyen Van Nga, head of the Zone 2 Plant Quarantine Inspection Department.
Currently, the department only inspects goods via sampling method, meaning that it only selects two or three out of 100 batches, so the probability to miss out unqualified batches is very high.
“To solve the problem thoroughly, it is recommended to apply regulations on safe vegetable production in line with VietGap or GlobalGap,” Nga said.
Nga added that Vietnam currently exports little vegetable to the EU, but exports of fruits like grapefruit, rambutan, mango and starapple are very substantial. Therefore, if the EU imposes the ban, the loss to export fruits of Vietnam is very high.
“We should restrict exports of some items with high risks of not meeting the standard to avoid big loss to the domestic fruit and vegetable industry,” Nga said.
Preliminary data released by General Department of Vietnam Customs show that in the first half of January, Vietnam’s exports of fruit and vegetables totaled US$22.6 million. The Ministry of Agriculture and Rural Development projects exports of fruit and vegetables in 2012 as a whole at about US$650 million, a year-on-year rise of 4.4%.