Opening the US market for Vietnamese husked coconut products

VCN - The Department of Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service (APHIS), the US Department of Agriculture has just issued a written notice on allowing Vietnam to export coconuts to this market. Accordingly, the US requires that fresh young coconuts from Vietnam exported to the US market must be peeled off the entire green shell and at least 75% of the coir.
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According to information from the Ministry of Agriculture and Rural Development, APHIS has sent a letter to the Plant Protection Bureau (Ministry of Agriculture and Rural Development) informing the agenda and inviting the delegation of the Bureau to participate in the bilateral meeting on plant health in 2023. APHIS expressed their hope that the two sides could come to a final agreement on Vietnam's import requirements for California peaches (USA) during the upcoming negotiation process. In addition, APHIS also announced the US opening the market with Vietnamese husked coconuts to this market.

APHIS said that the planning for the next steps of the market access process and the internal analysis to evaluate this item have been carried out in parallel. The evaluation results showed that the Vietnamese husked coconuts met the requirements of the US for processed products and the risk of spreading plant pests was negligible. This meant that instead of undergoing an entirely new and time-consuming regulatory procedure for granting market access to fresh fruits and vegetables, APHIS could utilize existing regulations applicable to processed products to regulate shipments of husked coconuts. APHIS had also completed updating the online database of agricultural goods import requirements (ACIR) to approve the import of young Vietnamese coconuts, having a minimum of 75% (3/4) of the coir removed and the outer green shell completely extracted.

According to APHIS, Vietnamese producers could start exporting husked coconuts to the US immediately, because APHIS classified shelled coconuts as non-germinating commercial coconuts. The pulp and coconut water inside could be used as food, so the only phytosanitary requirement was that these shipments must be inspected at US ports of entry. This helped speed up the process significantly for APHIS to approve coconut imports from Vietnam.

In addition, APHIS also said that it notified the US Customs and Border Protection regarding this update to avoid any delays in shipments at US ports of entry.

Preliminary processing of fresh coconut for export at Vina T&T Company. Illustration: T.L
Preliminary processing of fresh coconut for export at Vina T&T Company. Illustration: T.L

Previously, in April 2023, during a meeting with US Secretary of Agriculture Thomas Vilsack, Minister of Agriculture and Rural Development Le Minh Hoan said that Vietnam had completed the procedures and opened the market for grapefruit from America to Vietnam. At the same time, proposed to the US to accelerate the evaluation process and opening for Vietnamese coconuts and passion fruits. After that, the US sent the results of pest risk analysis for Vietnamese fresh coconuts. Accordingly, 43 species of pests on coconut trees were identified, but none were able to follow fresh young coconuts exported from Vietnam to the US. The US has required Vietnam to handle fresh young coconuts after harvest such as removing rotten, fallen fruits, removing all the green shell, and at least 75% of the coir.

Currently, Vietnam is in the top 10 coconut-producing countries in the world. Vietnam currently has about 200,000 hectares of coconut, with an output of about 2 million tons, mainly in the Central Coast provinces and the Mekong Delta such as Tra Vinh and Ben Tre. According to the Coconut Association, Vietnam is the 4th largest coconut exporter in Asia-Pacific. Despite the impact of the Covid pandemic last year, the export of coconut and coconut products reached over US$ 900 million. China is opening up the market and increasing purchases of this product from the second quarter, so the association expects the coconut industry to reach billions of dollars this year.

Assessing the potential for the development of the export coconut industry, Mr. Cao Ba Dang Khoa, acting Secretary General of the Vietnam Coconut Association, said that Vietnam had favorable conditions to develop this industry. China now wanted to connect and promote the import of Vietnamese coconuts through official channels. Most of coconut products were popular in this country such as desiccated coconut, fiber, candy, fiber mesh, jelly, desiccated rice, and coconut milk.

In addition, the Vietnam Coconut Association is also building a sustainable raw material area for coconut farmers to enjoy high prices, and create competitiveness in the international arena. The association will support the export promotion of coconut products to China, penetrating Japan the EU, and the US. With the goal of sustainable development, the coconut industry encourages businesses to participate in deep processing. The fact that Vietnam's coconuts achieve the official export "visa" to the US will help Vietnam's coconut exports soon reach the billion-dollar target.

By Xuan Thao/ Binh Minh

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