Already a major coffee and rice exporter, Vietnam is now turning its attention to fruit and vegetables.
Vietnam’s fruit and vegetable exports have jumped to $1.68 billion so far this year, up 28 percent from the same period last year, customs statistics show.
Fruit and vegetables have become Vietnam’s third largest hard-currency earner after coffee and cashews.
According to the General Department of Customs, China is the biggest buyer of Vietnamese fruit and vegetables, but other major importers include the U.S., Canada and South Korea.
For now, the country is still a relatively minor player on the international market stage, the eighth largest fruit exporter in Asia.
However, Vietnam’s fruit and vegetables exports grew rapidly to $1.85 billion last year from $900 million in 2013 and just $622 million in 2011, according to the Vietnam Fruit and Vegetables Association.
Industry experts forecast that Vietnam is set to earn up to $2.5 billion from exporting fruit and vegetables this year, up 35 percent from last year.
The government is targeting a ten-fold increase over the coming years, with crops like longan, dragon fruit and lychees being given priority.
For example, Vietnamese growers of tropical fruits, including lychees and fresh dragon fruit, are seeking ways to enter demanding markets which offer higher prices.
Statistics show Vietnam exported more than 1 million tons of dragon fruit last year. As the fruit can stay fresh up to 40 days, it is mainly shipped to foreign markets by sea at transport costs ranging from 2 to 3 U.S. cents per kilogram. Low transport costs make Vietnamese fresh dragon fruit more price competitive.
Vietnam has so far this year exported more than 10 tons of lychees to Australia, according to the Vietnam Trade Office under the Vietnamese Embassy in Australia, adding that the customer base for the fruit has quickly expanded, from the east coastal cities of Sydney and Melbourne to the west coastal city of Perth.
Vietnam shipped its first consignments of lychees to Australia and the U.S. in 2015.
More notably, as of mid-September, Vietnam’s exports of fruit and vegetables grew faster than other traditional agricultural commodities.
The world’s second-largest coffee producer posted a 22 percent on-year growth in export value to $2.37 billion over the past nine months. Vietnam’s cashew exports also increased by 13.6 percent to over $1.89 billion.
In the meantime, rice exporters saw a 14 percent slump from the same period last year to only $1.6 billion.
Vietnamese rice farmers and exporters have been badly battered by prolonged drought and salt water intrusion.
In the first four months of this year, the U.S. also rejected 1,700 tons of Vietnamese rice due to safety concerns, the Vietnam Food Association said, citing data from the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA).
The FDA said it found eight active chemicals in the Vietnamese rice shipments above the permissible limits set by the U.S. Agriculture Department.