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Opening the US market to Vietnamese coconut products

14/08/2023 13:48

The Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service (APHIS) of the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) has issued a notice regarding the permission for Vietnam to export coconuts to this market. Accordingly, the United States requires that fresh young coconuts from Vietnam exported to the U.S. market must have their entire green husk removed and at least 75% of the coconut fiber.

According to information from the Ministry of Agriculture and Rural Development, the Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service (APHIS), a part of the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA), has sent a letter to the Plant Protection Department (Ministry of Agriculture and Rural Development) notifying about a bilateral meeting and inviting a delegation from the Department to participate in a bilateral discussion on crop health in 2023. APHIS expressed its hope that both sides could reach a final agreement on Vietnam's import requirements for peaches and California plums (U.S.) during the upcoming negotiations. Additionally, APHIS also announced the opening of the U.S. market for Vietnamese coconuts.

APHIS stated that it has simultaneously planned the next steps in the market access process and conducted internal analysis to assess this product. The assessment results show that Vietnamese coconuts meet the U.S. requirements for processed products and pose minimal risk of plant pest spread. This means that instead of undergoing a lengthy legal process to access the U.S. market for fresh fruits and vegetables, APHIS can utilize existing regulations for processed products to adjust shipments of coconuts. APHIS has also completed the update of the online Agricultural Commodity Import Requirement (ACIR) database to approve the import of young coconuts from Vietnam, which have had at least 75% (3/4) of the coconut fiber removed and the green husk entirely removed.

According to APHIS, Vietnamese producers can immediately start exporting coconuts to the U.S., as the coconuts without husks are classified by APHIS as non-sprouting commercial coconuts. The coconut meat and water can be used as food, and the only phytosanitary requirement is for these shipments to be inspected at U.S. ports of entry. This significantly speeds up the approval process for coconut imports from Vietnam.

In April 2023, during a meeting with U.S. Secretary of Agriculture Thomas Vilsack, Vietnamese Minister of Agriculture and Rural Development Le Minh Hoan confirmed the completion of procedures and the opening of the market for grapefruit from the U.S. to Vietnam. He also requested the U.S. to expedite the evaluation and market access process for coconuts and passion fruit from Vietnam. Subsequently, the U.S. provided an analysis of the pest risk for Vietnamese fresh coconuts. The analysis identified 43 pest species but concluded that none of them had the ability to accompany fresh young coconuts exported from Vietnam to the U.S. The U.S. requested that Vietnam process fresh coconuts after harvest, including removing decayed or fallen fruits, peeling the entire green husk, and removing at least 75% of the coconut fiber.

Currently, Vietnam is among the top 10 largest coconut-producing countries globally. Vietnam has approximately 200,000 hectares of coconut plantations, with a production of around 2 million tons, mainly concentrated in the coastal provinces of Central Vietnam and the Mekong Delta, such as Tra Vinh and Ben Tre. According to the Coconut Association, Vietnam is the fourth-largest coconut exporter in the Asia-Pacific region. Despite the impact of the Covid pandemic, coconut and coconut product exports exceeded $900 million last year. China has opened its market and increased purchases of these products since the second quarter, so the association expects the coconut industry to reach the billion-dollar mark this year.

Assessing the potential for the export development of the coconut industry, Mr. Cao Ba Dang Khoa, Secretary General of the Vietnamese Coconut Association, stated that Vietnam has favorable conditions for developing this sector. China is currently interested in connecting and promoting the legal import of Vietnamese coconuts. Most coconut products are popular in this country, such as dried coconuts, coconut chips, candies, nets, jelly, dried grated coconut, and coconut water.

Furthermore, the Vietnamese Coconut Association is also establishing a sustainable raw material region to ensure that coconut farmers receive high prices. This initiative also aims to enhance competitiveness in the international market. The association will support the promotion of coconut product exports to China and further entry into markets such as Japan, the EU, and the U.S. With a focus on sustainable development, the coconut industry encourages businesses to engage in deep processing. Achieving official export approval for Vietnamese coconuts to the U.S. will help Vietnam's coconut exports reach the billion-dollar milestone.


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