Intellasia East Asia News – Awareness change needed to bring agricultural products to EU market

The EU’s regulations on pesticide residue levels have frequently changed and been updated recently, requiring Vietnamese enterprises to update information in order to respond to such requirements.

Vietnamese agricultural products hold a modest market share in the EU market

Before 1993, the EU allowed the use of more than 1,100 types of plant protection substances. But shortly after that, the EU continuously changed and reviewed the list, said Master Tran Thuy Dung from Sanitary and Phytosanitary (SPS) Vietnam Office during an online conference on disseminating commitments for SPS Measures set out within the EU-Vietnam Free Trade Agreement (EVFTA) held on December 1. As of January 2021, only 520 types of plant pesticides were approved and licensed to be used in the EU, Dung noted.

For plant protection substances outside the list, which have never appeared in the EU or risks yet to be assessed, the EU regulates the maximum allowable level of residue on imported goods.

“The SPS Vietnam Office received more than 100 notices about the draft changes to EU’s residue levels in 2020. With these changes, enterprises need to pay careful attention to the isolation process after spraying, to ensure the reduction of residue level in order to match the standards set by the EU,” Dung said.

There are still many challenges facing the consumption of Vietnamese agricultural products. Vietnam’s agricultural production has a small and scattered scale with many risks from impacts of climate change, environment and epidemics. The agricultural sector has to compete fiercely with other countries in the export of agricultural products, encounter the increasing protection of domestic production through technical barriers, the COVID-19 pandemic, and several others.

Nguyen Manh Hieu from the Vietnam Institute of Agricultural Engineering and Post-Harvest Technology said that the EU is importing vegetables and fruit worth about 35 billion euro per year. Vietnam ranks 27th among fruit and vegetable exporting countries to the EU with a modest market share of one percent.

Particularly for passion fruit products, the EU accounts for nearly 50 percent of Vietnam’s export value of this product. To penetrate the EU market, enterprises should have good quality products, preservation and transportation technology as well as quality control over planting areas.

The EU is interested in production according to GlobalGAP standards. While the practice of GlobalGAP production is very difficult for Vietnamese farmers in regards to the process of farming, harvesting, preliminary processing, packaging, preservation, quarantine treatment and others.

“The EU strictly controls pesticide residues, so the output eligible for export accounts for a very low proportion. But it is still a large and potential market for Vietnamese vegetables and fruit,” Hieu noted.

Changing perception, adapting to market requirements

Ngo Xuan Nam, deputy director of SPS Vietnam Office, said that to adapt to EU regulations, producers must change their perception of food safety and improve the quality of agricultural products in addition to enhancing professional qualifications for relevant subjects.

“When exporting to the EU, it is mandatory to learn and carry out their regulations. Regulations are changed and updated regularly, not only in the EU market but also in other markets,” Nam emphasized.

Manufacturers and enterprises need to grasp and strictly comply with relevant regulations pertaining to growing area codes, quality, packaging, labels, transportation and others while management agencies need to build supervision programmes to help enterprises and manufacturers better meet the requirements of importers.

According to director of the SPS Vietnam Office Le Thanh Hoa, the regulations of the EU market mainly focus on food safety, which has nothing to do with risk assessment and market opening such as Japan, the US and Australia.

However, the EU requires enterprises to meet the requirements of microbial contamination and pesticide residue levels. Enterprises have to overcome many technical barriers, especially when the EU has recently increased the maximum level of pesticide residue for a number of agricultural products.

“The EU has also issued a number of warnings related to violations of pesticide residues of some Vietnamese fruit and vegetable products. The SPS Vietnam Office found that, despite the violation of residue levels, the amount of goods exported to the EU has increased by four to five times. Violations are inevitable but specialised agencies and localities need to have more specific instructions so that farmers and exporters can fully meet the regulations of the EU market,” Hoa noted.

He added that the attainment of global certification such as GlobalGAP or FSC is also very important for enterprises to enter this demanding market.


Category: Economy, Vietnam

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