Vietnam issues stricter agriculture import regulations

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The Ministry of Agriculture and Rural Development has issued a circular with stricter phytosanitary requirements on imported plants, animals and other products to prevent the spread of disease, pests and invasive species.

According to Circular 39, set to take effect on September 27, an analysis of disease threats will be required for the first time on a range of imports: plants and any of their parts (stem, seed,"¦) that can be used for cultivation, fresh fruits, grass and grass seeds, any beings or objects that could spread disease or harm local flora and fauna.

Currently, Decision 34 issued in 2007 applies similar rules but only for plant seeds and seedlings, fresh fruits and animals.

The new document said the analysis will have to be reassessed if there is evidence of disease or other "harmful impacts" or new phytosanitary regulations are issued in the country of origin.

It also said any and all importers could be required to produce a disease threat analysis if Vietnamese authorities consider the product a relevant risk.

The new document retains a regulation stipulating that the agriculture minister will issue exemptions "in special cases."

In a recent interview with Tien Phong, director of the plant protection department Nguyen Xuan Hong warned about the high risks of agricultural products imported from China.

"Vietnam has increased inspection from 25 chemicals to 30 chemicals of agricultural products imported from China basing on our own experience and information from other countries," he said.

He said major agricultural products that Vietnam imports from China include apples, oranges, pears, mushmelons and grapes, with a total of 160,000 tons so far this year imported through the Lang Son Border Gate only.

Hong said the concerns of many Vietnamese and people elsewhere about tainted Chinese products "are easy to understand." He said there have been several related problems in China, including milk containing melamine, cabbages with formaldehyde, and apples with arsenic and thiram.

"My agency has closely monitored relevant actions from other countries that import products from China," he added.

According to Hong's agency, animal protection agencies took samples of 104 imported agriculture products July 1 August 10 and found three samples tested positive for banned substances, including two grape samples from China containing difenoconazole and cyperrmethrin at levels between 3-5 times higher than allowed  and a potato sample imported from China containing cholorpyrifos ethyl at levels 3 times higher than allowed.

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