Bangkok Post, 7 April 2005
New requirement imposed on fruit exports to China
Shipments must be from certified farms
Fruit exporters seeking to enjoy tariff-free access to China must ensure that their products come from orchards certified by local authorities, starting on May 1.
The requirement follows talks between top officials of the two countries last October in an attempt to remove import difficulties, particularly with regard to sanitation standards for fruit and vegetables under the Thailand-China free trade area (FTA) agreement that took effect on Oct 1, 2003.
Somchai Channarongku, the chief negotiator for Thailand, said that the freshness requirement would cover five kinds of Thai fruit: durian, longan, lychees, mangoes and mangosteens. Thailand will also announce measures to ensure that the imports of apples, pears, oranges, grapes and jujubes come from certified orchards in China.
The five Thai fruits will be tested to ensure they meet sanitary and phytosanitary standards (SPS) by China’s Administration of Quality Supervision Inspection and Quarantine (Aqsaq). Mangoes will also be subject to an additional quarantine to ensure they are insect-free.
Mr Somchai suggested that exporters buy fruit for export from orchards that received the Good Agricultural Practice (GAP) certification from the Agriculture Department.
China endorses GAP, a code of conduct for farmers, which calls for the safe use of chemical pesticides, cultivation of good breeds of animals and plants, good post-harvest procedures and compilation of information and data.
So far, 94,000 orchards have been certified by the Agriculture Department.
``The new system will benefit exporters, as the Chinese authority will blacklist only orchards that produce poor-quality products, not all shipments from the country,’’ he said.
Mr Somchai, also deputy executive director of the National Bureau of Agricultural Commodities, said further talks with Aqsaq were also held last week aimed at extending the list of Thai fruit to 23, and keeping up with China’s supplementary import measures such as the requirement for the specification of the number of fruit containers on the phytosanitary certificate.
He said Aqsaq had scheduled to apply the supplementary measures for shipments that enter the mainland from July 1 onward. All 23 fruits from Thailand would be allowed to enter China tariff-free provided they are from certified orchards, neatly packed and easy to trace, he said.
Other fruits to be covered are coconuts, bananas, papaya, rambutans, oranges, tangerines, pomeloes, pineapple, tamarind, guava and carambola (star fruit).
In return, China will propose a list of 31 fruit and vegetable products to be registered for exporting to Thailand with Chinese local authorities, certifying their quality and traceability.
According to the Foreign Trade Department, Thailand now has a trade surplus in fruit and vegetables under the FTA, after having a deficit in the first few months after the pact took effect. From October 2003 to February this year, Thailand exported 14.36 billion baht worth of fruit and vegetables to China and imported 6.47 billion baht worth of the produce.