09:39 | 09/09/2019 Trade
(VEN) - In the first half of 2019, imports from the US increased 19 percent over the same period in 2018 to reach more than US$6.9 billion. In particular, vegetable and fruit imports soared 70 percent, reaching US$116 million plus and seafood imports were up 67 percent, reaching almost US$47 million, according to preliminary data of the General Department of Vietnam Customs.
Economists attribute the increase in US imports to lower prices and US-China trade tension that have forced US exporters to seek other markets instead of China.
Ha An, a fresh fruit seller in Hanoi said US farmers were still harvesting cherries in July rather than the spring, due to the late blooming of California’s cherry trees, pushing their price down 40-50 percent to VND225,000-350,000/kg, attracting more buyers than the same produce from New Zealand and Australia.
The price of US blueberries and green grapes has also dropped VND100,000-200,000 and VND50,000 per kilo, respectively, resulting in increased sales, another fruit seller in Hanoi said.
High-class US seafood, such as Alaska lobster and king crab are also much cheaper than in previous years. Specifically, the price of frozen king crab has decreased to VND650,000 from more than VND1 million per kilo two years ago, while live crabs are sold for almost VND2 million per kilo. Fresh lobster is sold for about VND340,000/head (referring to lobsters weighing 500g each) and VND1 million for 1-4kg lobsters, while newly dead or frozen lobster is sold at VND200,000-400,000/kg.
However, the low prices have made many consumers suspicious, believing that at such levels the goods must originate from China rather than the US. Ha An said businesses like hers have distributors’ documentation proving that the products are imported by air and thus could not have come from China. With American cherries as cheap as Chinese ones, she added, traders off course choose to import American products for sale.
Economists expect the wave of US agricultural products to Vietnam will increase. Vietnamese farm produce and
seafood companies need to improve quality and develop new products if they are to survive competition from high
quality, well-priced US goods.