Watermelons rot as trucks held up at Vietnam-China border

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Hundreds of trucks carrying Vietnamese watermelon to China are stranded at a border gate in northern Lang Son Province, inflicting losses on farmers and traders.

Do Minh Dinh, deputy head of the management board for the Tan Thanh Border Gate, said the situation started in late February and was not likely to subside until the end of this month when the harvest season for watermelon ends.

He said up to 500 trucks, each carrying dozens of tons of watermelons, are flocking to the border gate each day, while customs officials are able to grant passes to around 150 vehicles a day.

"Trucks have to queue at the gate for around three days before transporting their fruit to China's Po Chai Market," said Dinh.

Vietnamese vendors said that as a result of the congestion, a large number of watermelons dropped from their stems or got spoiled when reaching the market, and Chinese traders refused to buy them.

They also said the large volume of the fruits had forced priced down.

Bui Quang Vinh, a truck driver, said, fresh watermelons with stems were priced at VND7,000 per kilogram at Po Chai Market while those without them were sold for just VND1,000.

While a line trucks stretching for several kilometers stood on Nhanh Nam Street leading to the border gate, some, partly or fully loaded with watermelons, were returning to central provinces from China.

"They are unsold watermelons," said a xe om (motorbike taxi) driver. Chinese traders didn't buy or offered too low prices. So, fruit owners are bringing their produce back."

And some people were buying these watermelons along Nhanh Bac Street to resell in northern markets.

Nguyen Van Hien, a vendor, said Friday: "I bought 25 tons of watermelons yesterday. But I bought around 100 tons on previous days, and the road was overwhelmed with the fruit at that time."

"Watermelon traders have suffered losses. They bought the fruit at VND3,000 per kilogram at orchards and paid around VND1,000 per kilogram for transport. But 10-60 percent of the fruit on trucks were no longer fresh when passing the border gate."

"Looking at trucks getting stuck at the border gate, and fruit owners having to sell the produce at low prices, I felt very sad. This situation occurs every year," said Do Minh Dinh.

"Many Vietnamese vendors carry their farm produce to Chinese markets without a contract. If they are lucky, they can sell their produce, but in case of an over-supply, they can't find buyers," he said.

Dinh also said though Tan Thanh Border Gate management board always recommends that vendors share information among themselves and co-ordinate their trips to China so they do not carry their produce at the same time. But this advice was ignored, he said.

"We suggest relevant agencies and associations gather vendors to organize their export activities better and urge them to transport fruits only after having sales contracts so that they can avoid congestion and their customers will not drag prices down."

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