The US Food Safety Modernization Act, which took effect in 2011, is hindering Vietnamese fruit exports to the States, reports Vietnamese news site www.tuoitrenews.vn.
US laboratories are dealing with a backlog of work as the new statute, which demands additional tests be carried out on food imports, is applied. This is prolonging the testing time of numerous fruit shipments from Vietnam, and therefore delaying sales and affecting fruit quality, the report says.
“Since 2009, Red Dragon has smoothly exported 67 containers of dragonfruit by sea. However, the US import agency has recently increased inspection frequency, taking samples of all shipments,” Mai Xuan Thin, director of Vietnamese fruit trading company Red Dragon, told an industry conference in Ho Chi Minh City in early December.
Three of the firm’s containers have been held by the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) for up to seven days to test for pesticide residues, he said.
The US authorities have yet to issue specific maximum residue limits (MRL), so Vietnamese exporters are unprepared and shipments can be cancelled, Thin added.
“In addition, the duration a shipment is held before clearing through customs is quite long, and fruit must be sold out within seven days after arriving in the US. This greatly affects exporters,” Thin told conference delegates.
Some industry sources believe the new US statute is a barrier to curb surging volumes of Vietnamese dragonfruit arriving into the US. Shipments have soared from 100 tonnes in 2009, to an estimated 1,800 tonnes in 2011.
Nguyen Tu Cuong, former director of the National Argo Forestry Fisheries Quality Assurance Department (Nafiqad), told www.tuoitrenews.vn the enactment of this statute is unfair to local fruit exporters since Vietnam’s fruit products have undergone multiple processes and local firms have cooperated with the US Department of Agriculture (USDA) to be licensed to enter this market.
Matthew Lantz of the USAID-STAR-plus project reportedly advised Vietnam’s agricultural agencies to work with the USDA to issue MRLs for fruit products and thereby prevent damage to local exporters.