The tariff war fallout has helped introduce Vietnamese shoppers to imported treats such as cherries, However, the change could spell disaster for local farmers.
64-year-old retiree living in Hanoi Nguyen Thi Hanh had never eaten a cherry before the trade war between Washington and Beijing. She had often seen the fruit for sale at a local shop, but with a monthly pension of only 5 million Vietnamese dong (US$215), the imported treat was well outside her price range.
These days, however, she has been buying cherries for about US$10 a kilogram, around half of what the shop used to charge. “I think many Vietnamese people have not eaten cherries, so I hope the price will drop more, so many people can buy them.”
Bui Thu Thuy, the shop’s owner, attributed the price fall to economic headwinds beyond Vietnam’s borders. “The trade war between the United States and China has benefited Vietnamese people,” she said, surrounded by trays of American cherries and red apples.
Shop sales were up 30 per cent in 2019 compared to the same period last year, Thuy added, and cherry purchases had increased a whopping 40 per cent.
The trade war, now in its second year, has dealt an economic blow to an American agricultural sector increasingly reliant on exports to China, the world’s second largest economy. Cherries were among the first casualties when Beijing rolled out its first retaliatory tariffs in April last year. The US state of Washington, America’s biggest cherry producer, saw exports to China cut in half, according to local government figures.
Other fruits including apples and grapes have also found themselves in the cross hairs, as have meats and staple crops such as soybeans. Even the lobster industry has taken a hit.