Chinese produce falls from favour

images Vietnamese farm produce and foodstuff are wresting back the domestic market share they lost to Chinese products in the last five years.

In HCM City for instance, consumers who used to prefer farm products imported from China due to their cheap prices are now choosing Vietnamese products.

This is mainly due to the improvement in the quality and output of Vietnamese agricultural produce and partly as a result of the “Vietnamese people use Vietnamese products” campaign.

Chinese apples, pears, eggs, mackerel, and anchovies dominated both wholesale and retail markets in HCM City before 2005.

Other Chinese farm produce like carrots, potatoes, ginger, cauliflower, broccoli, grapes, and mandarin oranges also began to appear gradually.

In May 2005 vegetables imported from China accounted for a substantial portion of the vegetables sold at the Thu Duc wholesale market, Nguyen Thanh Ha, deputy head of the company managing the market, said.

The situation was now different, he said.

On May 30 for instance, the market sold 1,300 tonnes of vegetables, but only 60 tonnes were of Chinese origin.

Chinese fruits used to account for 30 per cent of the imported fruits sold in the market but have now fallen to less than 10 per cent.

Figures from the customs show that the import of vegetables and fruits from China fell by more than 18.3 per cent in the first quarter.

In March alone the decline was more than 26.5 per cent.

Safety reasons

Chinese farm produce have an advantage in terms of size and packing compared to those coming from the vegetable-growing areas in Da Lat, and last longer than Vietnamese produce. Since they were also cheaper, they were favoured by consumers.

However, they did not taste better while cooking, Nguyen Viet Ha of Phu Nhuan District said.

Vegetables from Da Lat, though smaller and not as eye-catching as their rivals from China, retain their taste after being cooked.

The carrots and potatoes grown in Da Lat, for example, kept their colour and taste after being processed while Chinese carrots did not, she said.

There has been no official study on the safety of agricultural products from China but HCM City consumers are no longer buying them, instead choosing home-grown fruits and vegetables for their good quality and similar prices.

Another reason for the decline in consumption of Chinese products in HCM City is the relentless strengthening of the Chinese currency, which has caused Chinese imports to lose their price advantage.

A fruit wholesaler in Thu Duc market, Ba Hung, used to import four, sometimes five, containers of fruits from China every day.

But now it has fallen to one, with Chinese fruits having to share shelf space with imports from other countries.

“My customers are opting for imports from other countries, even if they are more expensive,” Hung said.

“You can find Chinese fruits in some retail shops on the street but not in wholesale markets.”

Fruits from Da Lat are also becoming popular.

Ha attributes this to rising incomes and living standards which have also raised awareness.

Many people have become afraid of the preservatives that make the imported products last long but may harm health, he said.

“For safety reasons, middle-income consumers prefer to buy fruits imported from the US, Australia, New Zealand, or Chile while poorer people opt for domestic products that are of similar price or even cheaper.”

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