In its most recently released report, Association figures show overseas consignment of cashew kernels for the January-June six-month period tallied in at 156,000 metric tons valued at US$1.2 billion.
The market will largely remain unaffected by the UK’s decision to exit the EU over the long-term, said Nguyen Duc Thanh, chairman of the Association, in a recent speech, although it is certainly being hit hard as a result of currency fluctuations in the short-term.
The country is still on track to hit this year’s plan to process and export 350,000 metric tons of kernels at US$2.5 billion of revenue, he said, though that prospect is becoming increasingly more unlikely.
The Chairman underscored the importance for the cashew industry as a whole and agriculture in general to beef up efforts to strengthen the country’s national sanitary and phytosanitary framework.
The benchmarks for the industry as set forth by the International Standards Organization (ISO) have been in place since 2009, said Mr Thanh, but according to one recent official study, only 22 out of 371 smallholder farmers surveyed in the country meet with those standards.
With the Vietnam-EU free trade agreement winding its way through the ratification process and still on target for implementation in 2018, there is no issue of greater importance for cashew farmers.
The EU health and safety standards are some of the strictest in the world and even when tariff barriers come down as a result of the trade deal, an inability to comply with ISO rules such as those regulating acceptable pesticide residue levels will prevent their exports from entering EU commerce.
“To fully capitalize on the potential – and to be competitive – product coming from production cost environments such as Vietnam, must meet these high quality standards,” said Chairman Thanh.
He added: “The EU is a huge economy and therefore presents great opportunities for not only cashews but all of the country’s ag producers. As we speak, agricultural exports to the EU are on the rise and boosting food safety is crucial for the country’s smallholders to fully enjoy access to it.
The competition from African nations is tough and African smallholders are now looking to re-ignite trade in the EU, with many already having signed free trade agreements that have gone into effect eliminating tariffs on cashew and other ag imports.
They are also putting in place major food and safety projects in an all-out effort to strengthen their sanitary and phytosanitary-related institutions and establish a larger footprint for themselves in EU commerce.
The country’s industry faces continual challenges both with putting in place the necessary legislative frameworks and procedures for implementation, said Mr Thanh, basic requirements for building capacity among its producers and exporters to take full advantage of access to the EU economy.
“The best way to promote the country’s cashew industry is to shift the focus from price to quality,” said Thanh, adding until that happens the market will most likely remain unnecessarily volatile.