Vietnam warns shoppers of "toxic" Chinese fruit

2013-03-19 08:14:24 GMT2013-03-19 16:14:24(Beijing Time)
 In this March 9, 2013 photo, porters unload boxes of Chinese fruits near traders at work at Long Bien wholesale market for fruits and vegetables in Hanoi, Vietnam. In this March 9, 2013 photo, porters unload boxes of Chinese fruits near traders at work at Long Bien wholesale market for fruits and vegetables in Hanoi, Vietnam.

Vietnam's Internet and state-run media said Chinese fruit on sale in the country might look good, but it contains deadly levels of preservatives and pesticides. Shoppers quickly stopped buying imported fruit altogether, believing it all tainted or falsely labeled.

While fears about the safety of Chinese food products are often well founded, in Vietnam they are so tangled up with anti-Chinese sentiment it is hard to tell where one begins and the other ends, says AP.

A Vietnamese businessman says sales at his firm, one of the largest fruit importers in the country, were down to $6 million last year from $11 million in 2011. While he and others in the trade say Vietnam's economic slowdown is partly to blame, he complains the constant media reports of toxic fruit are strangling businesses, even for those like him who no longer import from China.

"It's all about how they can sell more newspapers. Nowadays if you write an article about Chinese products, you immediately get millions of hits online," he said by phone from Australia, where he was buying up part of that country's grape harvest. "We lost a lot of money just because someone was writing something fancy."

Chinese companies selling computer games and Internet chat programs have faced online boycotts from anti-China activists. In December, Paulo Thanh Nguyen launched a website called "No China Shop", which sells only goods made in Vietnam — children's clothes, shoes and vegetables — and offers to source others. He says sales are good, but his decision to launch the business was as much about harnessing and spreading anger against China as it was about making money.

"Chinese made products are killing Vietnam's economy and Vietnam could become China's economic slave," he said. "I want to lend a hand in preventing this."

Territorial tensions have been finding their way into other markets in the region.

Business between the two countries has increased since they normalized relations in 1991 following a frontier war. Trade between the two reached $35.7 billion last year, more than triple the figure back in 2006, according to government figures. Cheap Chinese goods dominate markets. Many of its factories that make goods for exports must first import raw materials from China.

Fruit and vegetable imports from China are especially vulnerable to consumer backlash because of that country's well-documented instances of food tampering, overuse of pesticides and lax regulations on everything from baby milk, dried fruit to meat products. Moreover, Vietnam's recently minted middle class, like their brethren elsewhere, are increasingly concerned about the provenance and quality of what they put on their plates in general.

Nguyen Quang Bach, a customs official at Tan Thanh, one of the major entry points for Chinese goods into Vietnam, said last year daily imports peaked at 2,100 metric tons of fruit a day in the run up to the Lunar New Year, when demand for fruits is at its highest. He said this year the busiest day saw half that cross the border.

"The information (about alleged dangers) has affected people's psychology," he said. "Consumers don't eat Chinese fruits and importers can't sell them."


Editor: Mei Jingya
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