Vietnam: Chinese fruits come in great quantity despite safety warning

It is estimated that some 1000 tons of fruit is imported from China to Vietnam every day across the Tan Thanh border gate.

The Plant Protection Agency under the Ministry of Agriculture and Rural Development (MARD), has stated that it has found the preservative residues in the Chinese fruit samples (2 samples of grapes, one pomegranate, one plum) exceeding by 3-5 times than the allowed levels.

The warnings given repeatedly in recent days about the safety of Chinese food have prompted Vietnamese people to turn their backs to Chinese goods.

However, Nguoi lao dong newspaper has reported that despite the information, the Than Thanh border gate in Lang Son province, considered the biggest fruit import locality, still puts hundreds of trucks of fruits through every day.

Groups of trucks carrying fruits are seen following one another crossing the border to the customs station to make customs declaration. The large area of Tan Thanh border gate is always full of big trucks with farm produce.

Nguyen Van Chuong, head of the Tan Thanh border gate’s customs agency, said under the current regulations, fruits bear the import tariff of zero percent. Therefore, Chinese fruit imports have been going to Vietnam through the official channel, while in the past, they were smuggled into Vietnam.

Also according to Chuong, some 40 containers and big trucks of fruits, carrying some 1000 tons of fruits, goes through the Vietnamese border.

Under the current laws, all the farm produce, including fruits, must have quarantined at the Tan Thanh plant quarantine station, before the goods owners can follow procedures to import the products to Vietnam.

However, Nguyen Quang Bach from the Tan Thanh Customs Agency said that in many cases, the quality of the products is uncontrollable. These are mainly the products traded by Vietnamese and Chinese merchants through “verbal contracts,” not the imports under commercial contracts.

Be Thi Thu Hien, Head of the Tan Thanh plant quarantine station, said that the station has the duty of taking samples of the imports for testing. Most recently, it discovered the preservative residues at very high level at a Chinese plum sample.

The Plant Protection Agency has asked its branches to tighten the control over plum imports and told to examine 30 percent of the imports. Officials have also said they would keep a stricter control over potatoes and some other kinds of fruits with latent risks.

According to Hien, 42 tons of fresh plum has been imported to Vietnam since early September.

Nguyen Thi Ha from the Plant Quarantine Sub-department Zone VII, has noted that in general, fruits at the wrong time have very high plant protection chemical residues and have higher safety risks than the fruits of the main crop.

Ha said that it is now the main crops of apples, pear, oranges and yellow melons; therefore, the preservatives residues may be lower than other kinds of fruits.

Meanwhile, plums were harvested in April and May already, now being preserved in cold storage. Therefore, the plant protection chemical residues are believed to be higher. Ha has advised people not to eat the fruits, or face high risks of being unsafe.

The information about the toxic chemicals in Chinese food and about the big imports of Chinese goods to Vietnam has annoyed Vietnamese people.

A reader has sent a letter to Nguoi lao dong editorial board, writing that he cannot understand why state agencies advise people not to eat Chinese fruits, but the products still come in big quantities to Vietnam without taxation.

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