Fruits and vegetables from Thailand have become popular in Vietnam thanks to competitive prices and presumed high quality, but recent safety tests may make consumers think again.
Thailand since August 2014 has surpassed China to dominate the imported fruit and vegetable market in Vietnam, making up 38 percent of all sales.
Figures from Vietnam’s Fruits and Vegetables Association showed that nearly US$60 million worth of Thai produce were sold in Vietnam in the first quarter of this year, up more than 2.2 times year-on-year.
China came second with nearly 25 percent, followed by the US with 10 percent.
Nguyen Thanh Ha, deputy director of Thu Duc wholesale market of agriculture produce in Ho Chi Minh City, said many local consumers have switched to Thai products as they were concerned about the quality of Chinese produce.
She said most of Thai fruits are very popular in Vietnam because they look better but are not much more expensive than local ones.
It therefore came as quite a shock for Vietnamese consumers when many Thai produce reportedly failed safety tests at home.
Thai media reported earlier this week that tests conducted by Thailand’s Pesticide Alert Network (Thai-PAN) on 138 samples of popular fruits and vegetables found 46.6 percent of them contained residues higher than the safety standards.
The tests were conducted in March, looking into 450 kinds of toxic residues.
Thai-PAN coordinator Prokchol Ousup was quoted by Bangkok Post as saying that residues of 11 prohibited substances were found in the samples.
Many of the tainted samples were guaranteed by the National Bureau of Agricultural Commodity and Food Standards as of high quality.
Ousup said 25 percent of the products certified as being organic, which were supposed to be free of chemicals, were found to contain chemical residues beyond the safe limits.
All orange, guava and red samples failed the tests, so did 71.4 percent of dragon fruit samples, 66.7 percent of papaya, basil and long beans, 44 percent of mango, 22 percent of water spinach and 11 percent of tomato and cucumber.
But cabbage and watermelon samples were free of harmful residues, according to the network.
Vo Huu Thoai, deputy director of the Southern Fruit Research Institute, said Vietnamese government needs to take actions given new alerts from Thailand.
“The authorities need to urgently deploy technical measures to protect consumers,” he said.
However, according to some traders, the authorities have not been able to control quality of Thai fruits and vegetables brought into Vietnam via cross-border trade.